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NBC in Permaculture Design Magazine

Justin recently had the following article published in Permaculture Design Magazine. It touches on most of the branches of the NBC story. Hope you enjoy!

About 7 years ago, I signed over the next 99 years of my life. The agreement states that I and my co-signers have the right and responsibility to grow and tend a nut and fruit orchard on 4 acres of earth until 2113, at which point the parties to the lease will consider whether to renew. I’ll be 128 years old by then and mostly made of fluffy humus and fungal hyphae, if I’m lucky. But this beyond-my-lifetime arrangement, made in the spirit of mutual aid and active hope for a perennial culture to live in, has developed into something that gives me a powerful feeling of kinship with future generations, as well as with an interdependent community here in the present. I think I can best begin to explain by way of a love story.

I can’t say precisely when it was that I fell in love with trees: Was it as a kid in New York’s Hudson Valley, picking apples every fall and making forts in the woods? Is it in the Holt bloodline, which in the old language meant ‘forest on a hill’ and still today refers to a basketmaker’s willow copse? Does it go back a few hundred million years ago to some branch-swinging great grandparents? I do know for certain it was in 2010, during a year-long permaculture design course that I realized I was smitten. I’d ride my bike to class in the community garden, recklessly endangering myself as I gazed up at the trees to test my budding identification skills and look out for black locust blossoms or mulberries to gather, then I’d sit in class and marvel at the brilliant resilience that trees and people can make together. This was precisely the balm I needed for the existential despair I felt as I was becoming more aware of the interlocking eco-social crises we’re facing and the all-powerful forces that cause them. By the end of that PDC, the courtship was complete. I knew it would be me and trees, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g for life. But there was something standing in the way of consummation—a little something called “private property rights”. Being a landless renter, how could I start planting some of the billions of trees the world desperately needs? 

That’s when I found the Buncombe County Fruit and Nut Club, also known as the Fruit Nuts. This loose collection of 30 or so people was tending fruit and nut plantings in public parks here in Asheville, NC. With one big meeting in the winter to make plans and a handful of early spring workdays to fertilize, mulch, and prune, the group was (and still is) doing something that I found both very simple and quite radical. They were planting and caring for trees so that there might be a little free food, shade, and shelter for whatever kind of creature may like it. But this little act is also a kind of insurgency of the commons, to paraphrase commons advocate David Bollier. The public fruit and nut trees are a tiny uprising against the atomizing and unjust system of property ownership. Don’t get me wrong – the Fruit Nuts aren’t all that serious. Mostly we get together for the fun of getting together and—since we’ve often taken the plant-persimmons-and-ask-permission-later approach—for the joy of making some good trouble. But this experience growing fruit in public spaces drove home the inherently political nature of the kind of work permaculture was calling me to do. We can equip people with countless permaculture principles and techniques, but without equitable and widely distributed access to land, how can we hope to heal our cultural relationship with earth? I still pined for land to plant oaks on, but I was becoming aware that being a landless peasant permaculturist might just be a better position for stirring up some changes in this system of privatization that is so fundamental to the ecocidal hegemony. 

The Fruit Nut approach eventually hit upon some limitations. We’ve had a hard time getting traction for new plantings and have had to fight to keep the old ones protected from errant weedeaters and the bulldozers that run amok in our rampantly developing city. There was a small group of us who had more gusto for this orchard work than the parks could accommodate and we were puzzling over how to move forward. Then, in the winter of 2013, an opportunity of a lifetime, or rather, of 99 years, presented itself. Bill Whipple, who was the initial rouser of the Fruit Nut rabble, got to talking to one of his longtime customers at the tailgate market. Ileana Grams-Moog (both Bill and Ileana have contributed articles to PcD) had just put her 100 acre property into conservation. With this hungry group of tree enthusiasts in mind, Bill asked Ileana if she would be open to converting a couple of the hayfields to orchards of fruit and nut crops. She was fully on board with the idea, with a few stipulations. She asked that we stick non-invasive plants and that we oblige the ground-nesting birds with our mowing schedule, not mowing until June 1st after they’ve flown from their spring nests. The only rent we would pay would be in the form of a small share of the yields. After consulting with her lawyer, Ileana requested we form an LLC or some legal entity to serve as the lessee. This is how the Nutty Buddy Collective was born.  

Greg standing in some of the first scraps of shade cast by our walnuts and hickories

The five of us who formed the group spent many a winter evening crowded around kitchen tables as we forged the details of our cooperative operating agreement and tried to anticipate issues we might face in the span of a 99 year lease. How do we make decisions together? How do we share the work, yields, and someday, profits? How do we track the investment of our labor and money? How do we share responsibilities and liabilities? If one of the members wants to use a portion of the land for an individual project or experiment, how could we arrange for that? How do we manage and coordinate the work in the orchards? And the administrative work? What happens when someone dies or wants to leave the group? How do we go about adding new members? Our answers to these and many other questions became a four-page partnership agreement that has been essential in keeping up the arrangement. We revisit it periodically for amendments and edits, and refer to it when any issues come up and we need a reminder about what we agreed to. The document basically follows co-operative principles: we earn shares of the profit relative to our labor inputs, we set a minimum annual labor and capital investment relative to other members to ensure everyone is pitching in, we expressly state that all members have equal rights to manage and control the co-operative and that disputes will be settled by an 80% vote, and so on. 

After our first orchard was in the ground and the lease was on the books, a second landowner was quick to sign on with us. Both landowners are trained in permaculture and are motivated by the fundamental ethics of the practice, and also by a strong desire to take action in response to our climate crisis. By the end of 2015, we had a total of 8 acres planted with about 1000 trees and shrubs. I’ll take some space here to describe the orchards and our design decisions that determined their structure. Our first orchard is situated on a gentle section of north-facing slope that rises steeply just beyond our fields. The property is part of the headwaters of Turkey Creek, which flows east into the French Broad. At our first site visit, we found a few large black walnut trees and several seedlings growing at the edges of the fields. Following the land’s lead, we decided black walnuts would be the primary crop here. We laid out a rough 20’x20’ grid and altered the rows to approximately follow contour in the steeper sections of the fields. Planted on the 20 foot centers are black walnuts, hickories, northern pecans, and Carpathian walnuts (a cold hardy strain of Juglans regia). Between this ‘framework’ of nut trees, we’ve got fruit trees and shrubs planted 10 feet from the nuts: mulberry, pawpaw, persimmon, serviceberry, aronia, and a few oddities like mountain ash x hawthorn hybrids and Chinese yellowhorn, as well as a couple rows with Rose family fruits. The pecans are experimental; it’s easy to grow a nice pecan tree here at about 2000’ elevation, but, because the temperature drops so much during summer nights compared to the lower elevations, the nuts won’t mature their kernels. Pecans thrive just 1000 feet down the mountain in Johnson City, TN, where you can find many trees planted by John Hershey and JR Smith a half century ago. We’re integrating a breeding element with the nut production; we plant select seedlings onto which we’ll graft known varieties, allowing a branch or two from the rootstock to form part of the first scaffold so we can test the seedlings for desirable traits. Perhaps our little genetic lottery will turn up a mountain pecan or thin-shelled hickory or a black walnut that cracks out in halves.

Chestnut orchard in year two. The tree in the foreground has its guard placed to protect it from bucks who like to rub their antlers on young trees.

Our second planting is primarily a chestnut production orchard, just a few miles downstream in the same watershed. The site is a steep, over-grazed, east-facing hillside with thin soil and lots of exposure. It’s not exactly an ideal orchard site, but that’s the thing about trees – they’ll grow where other crops won’t. This is precisely the kind of land that JR Smith argued in Tree Crops we ought to be converting to plantings of multi-purpose trees. We followed a similar layout pattern here, but where the slope is too much for safely running a tractor on contour, we turned the rows downhill. Because this site is not as accessible, we went lighter on the interplanting of fruits and stuck mostly to chestnuts. There are a couple rows of select hickory seedlings and one long row of low-tannin burr oaks and high-oil black oaks. We’re experimenting with integrating false indigo (Amorpha fruiticosa) as a nitrogen fixer, planted halfway between the chestnuts. (I’ve been impressed with this woody shrub’s ability to grow with ease in the sod, resist deer browse, and vigorously jump right back up after coppicing). We’re growing the chestnuts from special, select seed and not planning to graft them. This will allow us to test and choose genetics that work well in our local climate. Our next chestnut orchard will be planted with seeds from the best of this orchard. Perhaps by the 99 year mark we’ll be several generations deep into a breeding project that’s developing ever more precocious, productive, and disease-resistant chestnut trees for southern Appalachia. A chestnut grower in Ohio has been taking this very approach for a couple decades now and has seen up to 50% increase in yields from one generation to the next. Imagine what’s possible if we can keep that up for a century.

One of the central goals of this work is to explore solutions to that well-known conundrum of perennial agriculture: tree crops are obviously fantastic, but they’re very slow to give a return on your investment. In start-up business culture, the span of time between when a company receives its initial investment and when it begins generating revenue is known as the ‘valley of death’. We’re crossing this rugged terrain with a few strategies. First, we’ve kept our costs to a minimum in several ways: by working out leases where we pay rent in the form of a share of the yields, by choosing species that are well adapted to the site conditions, by planting seeds which are cheaper and lower-maintenance than saplings, by developing our grafting skills so we don’t have to buy expensive grafted trees, by grafting wild seedling trees early so that we have all the scionwood we need when the orchard trees are ready for it, by doing minimal mowing, by opting for tree guards rather than fencing to protect from browse, and by keeping the complexity to a minimum. The approach adds up to a kind of hybrid or an orchard and forest garden—you might call it a forest orchard. Secondly, and more importantly, we’re spreading out the burden of the work and capital costs by forming a co-operative group. From a permaculture perspective, these orchards serve a variety of functions for our group. They’re a training ground for those of us who are still working on horticultural competency, especially at this scale; a genetic bank, where we’re collecting varieties and growing out lots of scionwood and seed for future plantings; a kind of demonstration and gathering site for potential future lessors and members of the group; and, of course, they produce some food and other products. 

Once planted, our forest orchards don’t require a whole lot from us. A bit of mulch every couple years to keep the sod off the roots, some shuffling of tree guards to keep the terminal buds protected from the deer until they’re out of reach, some light pruning to train the trees upward, and a little amending and fertilizing, and a mow or three every year is basically all we need to do. In the first couple years of both orchards, we spent about 15 to 20 labor hours per acre per year. That number has dropped precipitously to about 2.5 h/ac/yr. And so we kick back and wait ‘til the nuts start rolling in. Or, rather, we start a whole new project.

Raking in the green! Some gatherers bring in truckloads, some just a few boxes of nuts. We encourage folks to bring in more nuts by offering a higher price/trade value for higher quantities.

The next thing we needed to address was what we will do with the 8 acres of nuts once they start producing. There are very few buyers of black walnuts, in-shell black walnuts, and hazelnuts, and no buyers of the other species. Even if we could sell them in-shell to a wholesale buyer, the yield from eight acres isn’t going to generate much revenue at wholesale prices. We’d have to figure out how to process and value-add the nuts. This realization led to a broader insight about the challenges facing perennial agriculture. Many permaculturists, myself included, tend to be preoccupied with the urgent ecological necessity of establishing perennial production systems, and rightly so. But what happens once those production systems produce? The dearth of robust infrastructure and available information for processing and marketing of many of these lesser-known crops is increasingly regarded as one of the key challenges facing agroforestry in the US. This missing piece of the puzzle is especially apparent at the community-oriented, appropriate-tech scale we’re aiming at. So our next move was to sprout a new branch on our nut project tree: the Asheville Nuttery. 

The Carnival of Nuts kicked off a crowdfunding campaign that bought us our first nut cracker. We called in dozens of collaborators and volunteers to help run the nut putt-putt, demonstrate how to clean and cook a squirrel, perform a flying squirrel aerial act, participate in a nut cracking competition, brew a batch of chestnut beer, serve up some acorn cookies, and hickory milk ice cream. We raised a few thousand dollars—enough to buy a cracker that can handle the tough black walnut and hickory shells and to cover a few months of rent in an old greenhouse where we would begin to assemble a makeshift processing facility. Later that year, two supporters offered us zero-interest loans, each covering about half the cost of an oil press. 

Flying squirrel aerialist Anna Bartlett at the Carnival of Nuts

I’m not exactly sure what to make of it, but I think it bears noting that these financial backers and our two landowner-partners are all women. I’ve heard Severine von Tscharner Fleming of Agrarian Trust comment that a ‘magical mafia, matriarchal, mycelial, or otherwise’ is often a necessary ingredient for pulling off land access for small farming. Considering our ‘magical matriarchal mafia’, or as we sometimes call them, our fairy godmothers, I feel enormous gratitude. And as I learn more about the history of common lands and traditional and indigenous agriculture, I see and feel connected to a still living, adapted form of a matriarchal legacy of earth care and community subsistence that is older than capitalism, that acted in grassroots resistance to feudalism for centuries, that is much older still than that, and whose continued survival is cause for some hope for a livable and equitable future. 

In the fall of 2018, we put out our first call for people to bring us nuts and we stumbled our way through stomping on walnuts before we could build a huller. By Thanksgiving, our oil press arrived and we began processing black walnuts and bitternut hickories in our Patriot 600 nut cracker. A graphic designer friend put some labels together, we rush-ordered some bottles, and our super-fresh, expeller-pressed, locally-foraged hickory, black walnut, and acorn oils were ready just in time for the holiday tailgate markets. We had almost 5,000 lbs. of nuts come in that first year, gathered by our crew and 20 or so other people. We’ve grown every year since then, with a slight dip in total nuts in 2020 but a significant increase in the number of gatherers. In order to separate liability and delineate the projects, we incorporated the Asheville Nuttery as separate LLC from the Nutty Buddy Collective at the beginning of 2019. The Nuttery is trying to crack a lot of nuts: what’s an efficient, low-cost way to process every species of nut that is available to us here? what are the uses of the shells, hulls, leach water, and other byproducts? what are the markets for these products? how best to use them in the kitchen? how can we get more people involved and use the work as an opportunity for experiential learning? Although we’re a business and are in the business of generating revenue, our approach during these initial years has been to treat the Nuttery primarily as a learning lab where we’re working to discover and share the pleasures of community-scale perennial staple crop processing. 

The nuts we’re processing often come from the gatherers’ yards and farms, but just as often they come from trees scattered throughout the greater community. We share an open-source map where we and other gatherers keep track of forage-able trees and share notes each year. Whether in public parks, business parks, a neighbor’s yard—the trees in these places, when we bend to pick up their nuts, do a bit of a magic trick. They become a living embodiment of the common forests of old, where the land belonged to no one and to everyone, where one could go and gather what was needed, at only the cost of participation in a communal process of mindful management. When I gather nuts from this decentralized orchard we’re weaving, I get a profound sense of how very possible and right-in-front-of-us the necessary transformation of our cultural relationship to land is. What I’m calling the commons here has a very long history and has taken many forms among different people and places, and I believe it’s a powerful, deep-seated impulse of our highly co-operative and prosocial species that can serve to loosen the totalistic grip that privatization has on our ability to belong to one another and the land. I often think about how it’s a kind of commoning that brought these trees to prominence here in North America, where thousands of years of Native American use of fire to maintain common hunting and gathering lands favored oak, hickory, and chestnut trees, and about how it’s some form of commoning that will bring them back into a central role in the lives of the people here. 

Sorting nuts is Justin’s happy place

Besides developing processing techniques for each nut, there is another, more significant hurdle to running a successful wild nut-based business in the modern market economy. Nut trees operate on their own schedule, giving off many hundreds of pounds of nuts in some years, and basically none in others. This boom/bust mast cycle is the nut tree’s strategy for surviving the hungry seeding-eating hordes, causing a correlated cycle in these animals’ populations, and it could very well foil the plans of the seed eaters who are trying to operate a small business based on nuts as well. Figuring out how to produce acorn oil and then market it is challenge enough, but how do we then hang onto the market for three to five years while we wait for the oaks to decide to produce another big crop? This is a big question we’re working with, and like any permaculturist worth their nuts, we’re looking to see how this problem may also be a solution. This is where our next venture comes into the picture. The Acornucopia Project envisions the development of community nut processing facilities, or nut mills, sprouting up in towns and cities all throughout our region, forming a network of mutual aid that can keep up with the woody wisdom of intermittent masting by trading nuts. For example, if folks in Blacksburg, VA have a big crop of white oaks but no bitternut hickories for making hickory oil, and we have a good crop of hickories in Asheville but no white oaks, we can trade. This distribution of the tree wealth can go way beyond simple one-to-one reciprocity; with several nut mills networked together, a complex web of indebtedness and relationships could emerge that is not only trading nuts, but sharing knowledge and equipment, co-marketing products, collaborating on R&D, and so much more. A robust network like this can improve the market viability of our nuts and stat to coordinate with growers to increase the supply and convert large acreages to nut production and food forestry. 

A hickory creme and acorn flour tart dreamed up by the chefs at OWL Bakery.

The concept for the Acornucopia Project came to Bill in a fever dream in 2017 as the Nuttery was just beginning to gear up for its first season, where he found himself among countless miles of nut trees, stretching into the distance in all directions. Connecting the dots between the nut tree commons, the cooperative network of nutteries, the NBC’s vision for forest orchards with long-term tenure, and adding elements of performance, experiential education, and culinary exploration to bring to life a nutty culture, the Acornucopia Project is an expansive concept of how we might just dream that seas of nut trees into reality. Unlike the NBC and the Nuttery, the AP is not a business. It serves as a brand for the Asheville Nuttery products, as well as those sourced and made in Virginia and West Virginia, where Bill and others are developing another nut mill, but it’s much more of a spirit and a rallying cry than a company or organization. Under this nutty banner, we’ve put on workshops, gone on nut forays with schools groups, hosted multiple course native nut-based meals with collaboration from fine dining chefs, put on a Circus Quercus Road Show, assembled a group of chefs to test recipes, and much more. Bill has recently been exploring squirrel puppetry in an Instagram TV series called “In A World Gone Completely Nuts.”

Bitternut foray with the French Broad River Academy

Having spent four years in the proof-of-concept phase, the Nuttery is starting to focus on digesting and assimilating what we’ve learned up to now. We understand a whole lot more about the processing for each crop we’re growing and are getting a sense of the opportunities and challenges of marketing them. We also have learned some lessons about how to work together in this cooperative way. The ambitious, back-to-back launching of projects stretched and strained some of our relationships, and two of the initial five partners left both the AN and the NBC as a result. The remaining three of us are exploring how we might grow into a more robust worker-owned cooperative with different levels of membership for growers, gatherers, processors, and buyers, forming a dynamic community to share the work and rewards with. As we bring in more members and have greater capacity for planting forest orchards and processing more foraged nuts, we’ll also have a larger and more resilient web of mutual aid to rely on. Ultimately, this kind of work to deepen our interdependence and community collaboration is just our best effort to live up to the example trees give us for how to live long and and live well, for 99 years and far, far beyond. Δ

Some black walnut products on offer at the Asheville Nuttery. Find them at our online store to delight in these native nuts and support our work!

Mulberry Madness

Mulberry trees in the U.S. are often treated as an annoyance that stains the driveway and our kitchen floors.

Mulberry maniacs know that mulberries are one of the top 5 most important Permaculture perennials in the southeast U.S. Mulberries provide a staple food in the Himalayas, where dried white mulberries are ground into nourishing baking flour rich in omega fatty acids, and in all of Europe where the sweet, richly flavorful and extremely productive berries are pressed for wine and serve as a major food source for people.

Meanwhile, the leaves provide protein-rich fodder for animals and silk worms, and a blood sugar-regulating tea for people, the extra fruit feeds poultry, fish, and farm animals, the bark fiber makes cloth and rope, the strong, flexible wood makes bows and other tensile tools, and the tree serves multiple functions in a variety of integrated agroforestry systems.

In this half-day, hands-on intensive at Earthaven Ecovillage, we’ll be exploring all things mulberry: cuisine and medicine; botany, pruning, and grafting; placement and integration into other farming, permaculture, and agroforestry systems as living fences and other applications; culture and history.

You’ll get to taste several mulberry foods, see and discuss mulberry trees pruned for different objectives, have the opportunity to try grafting mulberries, and the option to buy affordable grafting gear and live mulberry trees to take home.

Instructors: Zev Friedman and Justin Holt
Date: May 30th
Location: Earthaven Ecovillage
Cost: $45-75 sliding scale. Add an optional grafting kit (grafting knife, tape, and 1 qt wax) for $60

To register, fill out this form here and send payment via paypal here. You can pay anywhere from $45 to $75 for the workshop fee. If you would like to also receive a grafting kit, please add $60 to the total.

You will receive a registration confirmation via email after payment has been received.

In Praise of Pruning

We’re in late winter now and it’s high time to get up into the canopy of your fruit and nut trees and give them their seasonal spruce up. A judicious pruning is probably the best thing you can do to keep fruit trees healthy and productive.

The Nutty Buddy Collective is offering pruning, grafting, and general fruit tree care services, as well as orchard design and consultation services. If you’re looking to hire some help with your trees or plans for trees, send an email for more info:

And a few more words on the subject:

I really love pruning. There are lots of resources out there that will give you rules for how it should be done, but I’ve found it’s really more art than science. And unlike canvas or clay, a tree is active and has a ‘mind’ of its own, acting according to established patterns of growth, in response to what’s going on around it, according to its own schedule and maturation. When pruning, we need to take into consideration so many things: present and potential diseases, pests and other hazards to the tree, the tree’s likely response to pruning cuts, the tree’s current growth phase and how that interacts with the seasonal cycle, what the goals and needs are of the people caring for the tree, the shape of the tree and of negative space, the physical aspect of how the pruner’s and tree’s bodies interact to make a cut possible…

You can follow a protocol to navigate this tangle of considerations, and I do to an extent, but it’s the kind of thing that ultimately needs to become intuitive if you’re ever going to get around to all the trees in the orchard.

OK, now going out on an esoteric limb a bit: It’s a lovely thing, to interact with a tree from intuition. Speaking for myself – though I think it’s true for many of us – I know, rationally, from hearing and reading it from experts, that trees very much have what we can call intelligence, albeit a very different intelligence from the two-legged’s kind.  But this is a hard thing for me to feel, you know? They’re just so different from us, and I spend so much time caught in our anthropocentric echo chamber that it’s hard to stretch my empathy enough to connect with a tree and really sense its intelligence. Well, pruning helps get me there. It’s a bit counter-intuitive to think that cutting a tree is the thing that gets me to connect with it. Seems a little masochistic now that I say it that way. But I insist, it’s not. For one, cutting a limb is not like amputation. Trees evolved with a whole lot of disturbance; think of the pruning saw as modern mastodon incisors. And secondly, through considering and executing a pruning cut and going into that intuitive space I described, you have to focus and look closely at the whole tree, as well as interact with it in an pretty intimate and physical way, getting up in its limbs and even its crotches.

Whew…didn’t think a post on pruning would get so risque. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the act of pruning gets me to pay close attention to and interact closely with trees, to express my needs and desires to the tree and to try and understand what the tree wants and needs. This forces me to think more like a tree and allows me a glimpse of the depths beyond the objectified idea of ‘a tree’ that I otherwise tend to rely on.

There are also less romantic things I love about pruning. One is that it brings order. Which kinda gives that same satisfying feeling you get from cleaning the house or clipping your toenails or getting a haircut. There’s probably some multi-syllabic German word for it. 

Another is that pruning also often yields scionwood, depending on what you’re cutting. Scionwood is like a little rod of DNA, used to propagate and move around varieties of woody and semi-woody crops. Typically, the dormant, most-recent woody growth is used. If the tree you’re pruning grew well the previous year, you’ll likely have many yards of scionwood you can cut off of the prunings, and potentially 100’s of dormant buds. Whenever I’m pruning, I carry some tape and a marker and a plastic bag with a moist paper towel in it so I can collect any grafting material I may want. Grafting is a whole other ball of wax that I’m not going to smear any more of on this page, but maybe I’ll do a post on it soon.


justin on ladder

look how happy this guy is to be pruning


At Villagers in West Asheville on Wednesday, 11/14/18, 6:30-8:30pm

The Acornucopia Project has been coming up with creative new spins on the ancient native nuts that bless our woodlands. What would a world look like if we derived the four basic commodities of “grain”, oil, “dairy” and “meat” from perennial native trees? Could it look like acorn crackers? hickory oil chestnuts fritters? walnut cheese? hazelnut charcuterie? What we eat creates the world in which we live.

As the season’s light dims, many cultures focus on trees as the symbol of the abundance of life and rebirth. By mid November the tree nuts will have been gathered and cured, and we move into the season where we gather with friends and loved ones to give thanks for the abundance, and dream about how to cure the woes of the world. The Acornucopia Project is a decentralized network of nut trees, foragers, foodies, people concerned about their health, the health of their community, and the health of the environment and this is an invitation to dream big with us.

Let’s share all this abundance over a discussion of how working together promises to transform us from a world of corporations into a world of cooperation. Let’s revive and reboot the ancient village cooperation of foraging, processing and marketing of open source wild foods, and make good, wholesome, nutritional, perennial foods accessible.

$10 per person. Includes a $10 voucher for Acornucopia products (to be redeemed at the door). Please register in advance. Admission will be $20 at the door.

Register here at the Villagers website.

Nuttery and Nut Foraging Workshop 11/7

Click here for additional info and to RSVP

Hickories, Black Walnuts (yes, they’re more than just yard debris and hazardous tree bombs), Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Pecans, and Acorns of all shapes and sizes, oh my!
You haven’t tasted anything until you’ve tried the robust, earthy flavor of a freshly pressed nut oil.

Join the Nutty Buddy Collective at The Nuttery at Smith Mill Works as we educate about how to forage for this wild treasure trove crop in your own backyard and what you can do with the nuts after you’ve collected them. Come learn more about their work and how you can get involved through Acornucopia Project.

What’s nuts is the idea that we can begin to transition to perennially plant based diets utilizing the beautiful native hardwood trees that make our environment so enjoyable. The Acornucopia Project is trying to get as many nuts as possible. The A.P. is a worker owned cooperative, and to cooperate with these workers is as easy as learning how to I.D. nut trees, observing them, knowing which trees can be profitably foraged, and how to care for the nuts post harvest.

In this class members of the Collective will illustrate the diversity of native nut trees we have, their many uses, value, simple tools and techniques needed for efficient harvesting, and what to do with them afterwards. After the class, we can take a short tour of our nut processing facility and you will leave with a $10.00 voucher you can cash-in for some fresh nut products and the capacity to have a supplemental income foraging for nuts. So come out and learn which ones can give you the most return bringing nutritious local food back to our community.

Let’s start rebuilding a world that is completely nuts!

There is a sliding scale fee for this class: $10.00 to $20.00
All proceeds go to help fun the efforts of Acornucopia project
Participants will get to take home a voucher good for 1 small bottle of wild nut oil (a $10.00 value) to be cashed in once this year’s crop starts getting processed in coming weeks.
Class is open to all ages – Children ages 12 and under are free.

Nut Season 2018!

The Nuttery at Smith Mill Works in launching this Sunday, 9/16 at noon!

Our hours will be:

12pm – 3pm on Sundays

5:30pm to 7pm on Wednesday

Read all about how to get nuts with us here, on our page dedicated to the project.

It’s likely Hurricane Florence is going to cause lots of windfall and maybe even wash lots of nuts away. The time to get squirrelly is now!

We’ll be at Villagers this Sunday, 5:30 to 7:30 to talk through the ins and outs of foraging nuts (and perhaps even go on a foray), and at Smith Mill Works next Wednesday evening doing the same thing. 

greg picking up chestnuts

The mast is fast, pick ’em quick!


Nut Tree Identification and Foraging Class at Villagers // 9.16.18, 5:30-7:30pm

It’s shaping up to be a fruitful nut season! Come learn how to get in on the foraging fun.

We’re continuing to explore this concept of a cooperatively run nut processing facility that could be the engine of a thriving regional tree crop economy. After last year’s first go at it, we learned a lot and are working to make the whole Acornucopia process, from tree to table, even more fun and enticing for everyone involved.

Acornucopia Project

Here’s the event on Facebook:

Here’s where you can register:

09.16.18 // What's Nuts? Tree ID and Foraging with Tom Celona // 5:30-7:30pm

The Acornucopia Project is gearing up for the fall foraging season! We’re trying to get as many nuts as possible by educating people on how to ID nut trees, understanding which ones can be profitably foraged, and how to care for the nuts post-harvest. In this class, Tom Celona, of the Nutty Buddy Collective, will illustrate the diversity of the native nut trees we have in WNC, their many uses, value, simple tools needed, efficient harvesting techniques, and what to do with them afterward. After the class, weather and nuts permitting, Tom will lead a foraging foray and we will gather nuts from trees in town. He will buy them from you on the spot, meaning that you could walk away from this class with money in hand and a voucher for more product! Imagine getting paid to take a class?

$10-20 per person, sliding scale. Includes $10 voucher for Acornucopia Project products.

Tom Celona is a community fruit and nut enthusiast who has been involved in growing food in public spaces for 8 years. He is one of the founding members of the Nutty Buddy Collective, a Nut and Fruit growing orchard business that works with landowners, creating long term agreements to produce local perennial food. The Nutty Buddy Collective is now growing a local Nuttery, where local harvesters can sell or trade their nuts to be processed.

**This Fall the Acornucopia Project is buying Acorns, Hickories, walnuts, chestnuts, and hazels so come out and learn which ones can give you the most return bringing nutritious local food back to our community. Let’s start rebuilding a world that is completely nuts.

A weekend of doing a whole lotta nuttin’

Brainstorming workshops on the next steps we can take 

to develop a new culture of small regional nut processing facilities together.


The Quaker Oaks Tree Crop conference 

is going to be held in 

Blacksburg, Va September 14-16th

Come join the Acornucopia I-81 nut parade as we gather in Blacksburg for a camp out weekend focused on a collaboration of developing small regional nutteries. Asheville, Johnson City, Abingdon, Wytheville, Blacksburg, Roanoke, Lexington, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and all their satellite communities are all along this major artery and we could be working together to create a new economy base around perennial tree crops supporting our local economies.

Weekend passes here- 30.00: 

A group campsite has been reserved at Boley Field just outside of Blacksburg in the Jefferson National Forest. Its is a beautiful location with lots of bike trails to explore. Tabla Rasa Restaurant will be catering  dinner Saturday night with awesome local organic food, and there will be potluck meals the rest of the weekend where food preparation is an exercise and a metaphor for sharing, creative collaboration, and working with what we have to feed everyone.

Just as the idea of cooking for 50 people is daunting, getting nuts from wild trees and creating food (Mast to mouth) is just too hard for individuals to take on as there are so many aspects to it. For the last 2 million years humans have worked together every Fall to reap the abundant harvests of the trees around them. Relying on each other is how we evolved to be human. Acornucopia is a  coalescence  of people who envision a world of mutually beneficial cooperatives. First we must gather and define a vision that is relevant for ourselves and our communities, and then see what talents people have to contribute. Needed are foragers, “nutworkers”, mechanics and tinkerers, marketers, teachers, artists, leaders, followers, nutritionists, computer savvy folks, cooks, value added entrepreneurs….. We have yet to find someone whose skills couldnt be utilized for getting highly nutritious nuts to the people who so badly are in need of them!

At the beginning of nut fall we will gather over the course of the third weekend in September 

and figure out what is the next step towards capturing this abundant resource that falls around us

The agenda will loosely be as follows:

1.) Learning which are the high value native nuts crops and identifying the trees they come from

2,) Scouting for these trees and what to look for when harvesting

3.) Techniques in gathering nuts, curing and getting to a hub/ processor

4.) Setting up a nut hub where nuts can be stabilized and safely held

If time and interest allows:

1.) Cooking with nuts/ what can be made from nuts

2.) Building markets for products

3.) “Show and smell”- sampling nuts, oils , flours, nut cheeses, etc

4.) Scaling up processing with efficient tools

5.) Completely nuts Talent show

6.) Mead Circle

7.) (???)

Within this framework we will gather in groups to discuss how to begin interfacing our communities with one another in supportive ways for a mutual goal. 

E.g. People who are tinkerers may gather around equipment development for curing nuts and processing, foragers may organize community forays, food people may gather with marketers and brainstorm about new product development, computer folks may get excited about developing foraging software aps, on and on…

…and you are needed.

This is going to fun, homespun, and s%^t is gonna get done.

Come as you are, come as you like , come and let’s go nuts

Tickets can be got:

For more info go to :


Seeking a new space

The Acornucopia/Nutty Buddy Collective are looking for a new space to set up our processing facility. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • within 10-15 of downtown Asheville
  • short or longer-term rental/lease options
  • existing commercial kitchen space is ideal, will consider a space that could be developed as a kitchen
  • ample parking lot/driveway for taking deliveries from foragers
  • move in as soon as possible, ideally no later than September 1st

If you have any leads or ideas, please send us a message:

Thank you!

P.S. start looking closely at the nut trees in your area- by this time of year, you can start to get a sense of which trees are going to be bearing a decent crop this season. We’ll be putting word out soon of our purchasing prices for acorns and bitternut hickories and our processing trade offer for black walnuts and other nuts.

nuts this way

Where do I bring all these nuts?