Getting crackin’ thanks to you!

Late last summer,  with two 99-year leases in place and our young nut & fruit trees slowly and steadily growing into abundant orchards, we decided it was time to start developing our processing facility. Growing the black walnuts, acorns, hickories, chestnuts, hazelnuts, cider pears and apples, aronia berries, and pawpaws is one thing (or, actually, it’s many things…). Making these crops into fine food products to be sold to market-goers and chefs is quite another thing.

We’re headed into not-very-well-charted territory in our effort to bring these uncommon crops to market. We can’t just go to Amazon.com and buy a continuous-feed black walnut cracker or chestnut sheller, for example. The equipment that does exist is often homemade by other nutty tinkerers and difficult to find for sale, let alone for testing and comparing with other options.

So, we set ourselves to researching and some R&D to explore various options and ideas for how to set up our processing facility. We decided to aim first for a large, powerful and versatile nut cracker that could crack a wide variety of nuts with minimal adjustments. We found the Patriot 600, which can handle up to 600 lbs. of nuts per hour. The cost was about $6000. This would allow us to easily crack any nut we wanted and begin to develop sorting (separating nut meat from shell pieces) methods, as well as begin to offer cracking services to other foragers and growers.

We turned to you all, our community of family, friends, customers and accomplices, to help make it happen. And you did! With your generosity and support, we succeed in raising enough funds to buy the cracker. We feel deeply grateful for your donations and, more importantly, for being a part of this wild vision we have for community that cares for each other and the earth for the long-term. You – whether you donated $5 or $500, or supported us with advice or encouragement or collaboration or by simply caring about what we’re up to – you are a critical piece of the Nutty Buddy Collective. We call our model ‘community-supported perennial agriculture’ because, for these slow-growing, long-lived, semi-wild and ecologically-regenerative crops and ways of growing to work, we need a village. Thank you for being a part of our nascent village and helping us take the next big step.

And there’s something else, too…now that you’ve helped us reach our goal, we’re excited to announce our next big thing. All the community support, research, conversation, and nut gathering, cracking, and snacking  has inspired us to launch the…

Acornucopia Project!

Acornucopia is a place where folks can stroll in the shade of their backyards, parks, and farms, picking up nuts and to sell to their local nut depot, bringing health and wealth to people and planet. It’s a big vision and lots of fun. Check out the website!

And now, without further ado, here is the Patriot 600 nut cracker in action:

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Acornucopia

‘When it rains, it pours’ could not hold any truer than with acorns. Without apparent reason other than fall, they just seem to be all over the ground and then they slowly disappear again. It’s one of those magical cycles that come and go with little fanfare and mostly annoyance by the human race. It hasn’t always been that way. Throughout the entirety of man’s evolution oak trees, which dominate most temperate regions around the world, have supported us. Rich in carbohydrates, rich in oils, rich in protein, the deep rooted perennial acorn mining trace nutrients from deep in the Earth could be the original manna from heaven. Oak trees have been known to individually produce up to 1000 lbs of acorns in a year given ideal circumstances.

White oaks have evolved to sprout in the fall as soon as they hit the ground if it is moist. The red oak family, more patient, waits until spring to wake up and send its deep taproot into the soft spring ground. Appropriately, the impetuous white oak is made up of fast burning carbohydrates and the red is much more rich in oil and protein. Both are loaded with tannic acid that makes them undesirable for eating out of hand like a chestnut, hickory, walnut, or peanut butter sandwich.

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White oak acorns are lower in tannins than red oak acorns and sprout shortly after dropping

I began seriously fooling around with acorns this fall by gathering whatever I could with my son Gabe. I knew enough to keep the reds and the whites in separate buckets as they are very different foods with very different properties. Just as the commodity brokers keep their corn separate from their soybeans. We harvested with a “Nut Wizard” which is an ingenious device that magically picks up small nuts by rolling a basket type cylinder on the ground and the nuts get forced in under the pressure exerted but don’t come out. This keeps your knees clean, if you know what I mean, and you can pick up an enormous amount of nuts in a very short amount of time. “Clean Knees” means a healthy back. It wasn’t hard for my son Gabe and me to fill a couple of five gallon buckets in an hour under a particularly prolific white oak denuded of grass underneath. There were so many acorns you didn’t need roller blades to glide along. Mind you, Gabe is 4 years old and had to have the wizard at least half the time. It is imperative that the whites get cured out as soon as possible because carbs are relished by the microorganism world even more than the macroorganism world. Some screen doors off the ground, under roof and protected from rodents made perfect drying racks. The oils in the reds which helps carry the germ through the winter makes them more resilient to possible storage issues.

After about a month I was able to get to processing the whites. The shells were brittle and nut meats were very hard and that made for gratifying shelling. As Gabe worked the ‘DaveBilt’ table top nut sheller, processing a 5 gallon bucket in about 15 minutes, I prepared the water bath in which we would pour all the shells and meats. From that 99% of the shells float while all the meats sink, making separation a slice of acorn flour fruit cake. Leaching is the next step and entails further softening of the halves, blending into small pieces and pouring many changes of water over. After drying again, a very nice dark flour product is the result that adds a rich nutty texture to any baked goods you make, or thickener for soup, addition to granola, etc. I was impressed on how easy it really was. All the whites got treated that way and were put away on the pantry shelf in mason jars to protect against grain moths. They will store several years like that.

Then came time to play with the red oaks and little did I suspect how significantly they were going to change my life! To be continued….

Bill

 

Fundraiser and nut cracker update

 

First, just wow. $5,650! We’re overjoyed to be the recipients of so much support and generosity from so many folks who believe in this work. It really puts wind in our sails. Or maybe it’s fertilizer at our roots..

If you want to donated or just learn more about what the fundraiser is about, check it out here: gofundme.com/nutfundraiser

Though we haven’t reached our goal of $10,000 as of yet, the Nutty Buddy Collective is moving forward with development of nut cracking equipment.

Every fall, many thousands of pounds of native nuts fall around us and by nature are an open source food. Every year they are shuffled out of our yards and into the bins , bags, and bottoms never to reach their intended goal of being food. They are of a higher flavor and nutritional quality than foods brought in from afar, organic or otherwise.

The idea of harvesting, processing and selling native black walnuts and hickories is a currently obscure concept and hardly any research and development is out there. Wild native nuts are such a marginal economic crop that it is currently reachable by only one large national operator. It is part of the NBC’s mission to develop a model and open source all its accompanying technology so anyone anywhere can pick up wherever we are and improve upon it, share it, and create a perennial food collective.

In short, we are developing a model relying on social capital and innovation rather than debt bondage. We believe that if grassroots organizers collaborate, we can create small local models around the world of perennial agriculture that will produce food indefinitely, keep wealth in local communities where it belongs, and environmentally, humans will be a net gain for the planet once again.

Would you care to join us on the journey?

An incredible Carnival

 

Franz Kafka apparently said once that ‘God gives the nuts, but does not crack them’

Since the divine gift of nuts doesn’t come pre-cracked, we’re calling on our community to help us set up a commercial-scale nut processing facility. And we’re filled with gratitude at how many fine folks have stepped up to contribute to the cause. Yesterday afternoon, we kicked off our fundraising campaign with an incredibly fun and delicious Carnival of Nuts.  Nearly 200 people came out to learn about our native nut crops and the Nutty Buddy Collective’s work, to sip on locally-brewed chestnut beer and toasted pecan hot cocoa, to play nutty carnival games, to chow down on delicious treats of all kinds.

If you missed the Carnival, that’s OK – you can still chip via our GoFundMe campaign

We would like to extend our deep, tap-rooted gratitude to the following people and businesses who helped make the event a success by donating time, talents, creativity, foods, and/or money:

More to come soon about the Carnival, the fundraiser and other nuttiness..

NBC Mother’s Day Picnic

 

 

In May the NBC had Mother’s Day picnic and fundraiser pot luck on our farm in Leicester. We were preparing for mowing season in the orchard and asked for support to help with the purchase of a tractor.img_20160508_134418752

It was a beautiful day and all manner of beautiful people showed up. Justin was the head chef and cooked some nixtamalized corn tacos on an open fire from corn he raised. Bill took the opportunity to clear out the last of his potatoes from the root cellar and made a mountain of potato salad. Meanwhile our guests contributed salads, entrees, pies, and casseroles. There was much abundance set at our table and we were so grateful for the support of our friends and community.

 

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You see, where we have our orchard is a special place. Only 20 minutes from Asheville, it consists of two gentle sloping fields of fertile alluvial loam nestled at the end of a cove with pristine creeks running on either side that are the headwaters of South Turkey Creek. Quiet, secluded, and bucolic , we were so delighted to finally share this remarkable place with our supporters.

Our Collective is a funny grey area between business and community. We believe that they are intrinsically connected. No one person will make a lot of money but we hope to make decent livelihoods for as many people as possible while growing healthy, good tasting food that no one else is growing in our region. For people who envision a world made up more of deep rooted perennial based foods we are a breath of fresh air. To do things slow and with consideration of the triple bottom line will not be very appealing for the stock holders, but for the community stakeholders, who want to see our region and others like it thrive, it is a rich investment indeed.

We gave a tour of the young two year old orchard and talked about how this dream came about and is now being realized. How there was no way we could have done it without our visionary benefactors. We hope to continue weaving relationships relying on one another, and in turn create an economic model that feeds the community and will be an asset to it far into the future. After the tour we gathered for goodbyes and everyone took their empty plate home except for Bill whose mountain of potato salad was now more like the piedmont.

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PS- We got a tractor soon afterwards

 

Join us for the Carnival of Nuts – a fundraiser for nut processing equipment

Come one, come all, to the Carnival of Nuts!

Join us in celebration of those marvelous, hard-shelled fruits so generously raining down upon our yards and streets, and to contribute to the Nutty Buddy Collective’s effort to bring our native tree crops to market. This is a fundraiser to help the NBC purchase commercial-scale native nut processing equipment. Learn more and donate at: www.gofundme.com/nutfundraiser

Sunday, November 20th, 2016
4pm – 8pm
Toy Boat Community Art Space (101 Fairview Rd, Asheville, NC 28803)

All ages are welcome – fun kid activities from 4 – 6pm.

A $10 minimum donation for entry gets you 1 bag of tokens to spend on food, games, and fun. Under 12 free from 4-6pm.
The Carnival will include:
* A nut featured dinner prepared by guest chefs from Blacksburg, VA
* Nutty treats from French Broad Chocolates, OWL Bakery, Vortex Doughnuts, The Hop Ice Cream, and others featuring black walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, and acorns.
* Chestnut Beer crafted by a local brewer (gluten free!)
* A high-flying Aerial Squirrel performance and flying squirrel activity for kids
* A variety of kids activities, including Nut Putt Putt, Nut Pie and Cake Walks, a Nut Scavenger Hunt, Piñuta, and Nut Cracking for Kids
* Info and demonstrations, including Nut Milking Stall and Nut Oil Pressing
* Osker and Amber of Glorious Forest Farms will be offering wild nut treats and information
* Silent Auction items, including a Wild Foods Hike with No Taste Like Home  and gift certificates to local businesses
* Guest speakers including Bob Stehli (president of NNGA) on the economics of nuts, Cathy Cleary (co-founder of West End Bakery) with a squirrel cooking demonstration, Chuck Marsh (Useful Plants Nursery and Living System Design) on land access, and Gabi White (Fruit Nut Extraordinaire) with some squirrrelly tall tales.
Nuts are some of the most nutritious and delicious foods to grace this good earth, and the Nutty Buddy Collective is committed to bringing them to your table. That’s why we’ve been working over the past three years to form long-term lease agreements and to plant diverse nut-centered orchards. And now we’re looking for your help: we are raising funds to purchase nut processing equipment. A large, powerful cracker that can bust up walnut and hickory shells at a fast rate is the linchpin of a nut processing system. Dehulling, drying, and separating machines will also be necessary.
Your donations will help us purchase the equipment necessary to move niche crops like black walnut and hickories toward the central place they deserve on our farms and in our regional cuisine. Our fundraising goal is $10,000 dollars. This equipment will also serve as a community resource, allowing NBC to provide cracking services and to buy nuts from homeowners and foragers.

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In the shade of trees that have been bearing food for nearly 4 decades, the Nutty Buddy Collective with Greg Miller of Route 9 Chestnut Cooperative.

Article in Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy Spring 2016

We can strengthen land conservation by developing a SAHC Spring 2016 Articledirect and symbiotic relationship between community members and protected land.  Community members invest in reforesting land to strengthen the foodshed and promote ecology in return for wealth.

Here is an article from the Southern Appalachian Conservancy Spring 2016 View from the Highlands.

At Big Briar Cove we are transitioning 4 acres of a hay field along Turkey Creek into a food forest.  Our mostly native planting will blend into the surrounding flora and fauna as well as improve the water quality of the stream down below.

And let’s not forget this is a business.  Land owners receive their annual share of the value of the crop.  We are literally creating wealth by conserving land.