August 14, 2021, Saturday, Noon
Bruce Smith Farm, Grant, Michigan
We started at noon with a fantastic potluck meal. Considering that it is not coordinated, it is always impressive that there is such a wide variety of dishes, with several highlighting fruits and nuts that members and guests had grown.
We had a few business items to discuss and then turned the microphone over to Bruce Smith.
Bruce started growing chestnuts 30 years ago. He has been a farmer forever and liked the idea of growing chestnuts. His non-traditional ways have proved to work very well. They grow thousands of pounds of chestnuts, yet still do not have enough to satisfy the regular and new customers!
Bruce also told us about a way to help reduce deer damage to young trees: hang a fist-sized ball of raw, unwashed sheep’s wool on each tree. Deer do not like the odor and will stay away from the tree. It lasts for a season and has to be refreshed each year. However, this is a much less expensive method of deer control than fencing and way more effective than trying to hunt to reduce the deer count or trying to chase them away when you see them. Thank you Clay Ottoni for rounding up some wool for us to take home and try.
The Smiths built a small campfire and roasted chestnuts for attendees to sample. Of course, they were delicious!
They had their chestnut harvester in the orchard for us to see. It is an impressive machine and VERY rare in the USA…possibly the only one? Chestnuts are cultivated more in Europe as a commercial crop, so the harvester was imported from Europe.
The Smiths showed us a large variety of trees from young seedlings and grafted cultivars to mature trees loaded with chestnut burrs. Some of the seedlings are demonstrating some very commercial attributes and will be cloned. For example, there is one tree that drops its nuts within about 48 hours. Most chestnut trees take up to 2-weeks to drop their nuts. Quick nut drop is a bonus for harvesting. And, the good news is that the Smiths plan to continue this operation. Granddaughter Amy is already working in the orchard and is planning to keep it going. Why not? They have a customer base that is continually seeking more of their products. They are good at direct marketing and therefore maximizing their profit. It is definitely more work, but for them, it is paying off.
Thank you to all of the Smiths for taking time from all of your orchard work to host MNFGA!