Valley Chestnuts: Taking Root
In an agricultural state best known for corn and soybeans, a new crop is taking root. This crop, the chestnut, is better matched to Valley Chestnut's loamy soil, broken-up patches of land, and narrow valley roads not suitable for large equipment.
A purchase of 40 acres, which began as a timber retreat in the early 80's, eventually became home to three generations with the gradual addition of houses and land. Six grandchildren grew up in close proximity on that farm, making memories that would last a lifetime, and Richard Lane (my dad) wouldn't have had it any other way.
Determined to steward the land, nurture family ties, and hand down traditions of hard work and independence to his grandchildren, Dad was open to new endeavors that encompassed his values and ideals. He'd considered growing chestnuts decades earlier and in 2017, when he became reacquainted with Tom Wahl (a leading chestnut authority living just twenty miles up the road), his interest was piqued once more.
Dad's enthusiasm and confidence in chestnuts grew rapidly from there. He studied the chestnut market. He tested his soil and learned that it was ideal for chestnut growth. He visited other farms, learning everything he could firsthand. And somewhere along the way, my 70-something father purchased his first computer to access online information as well.
Dad became convinced and, furthermore, was willing and able to invest in something that might not show returns in his lifetime. Just one question remained, really: Would his vision take root with his family, making such an investment worthwhile?
That would not be a problem. To date, five descendants and their families are committed and each is finding their niche in a family business that holds great promise. In 2019, a processing line will be installed, nuts will be purchased from local growers, and the retail portion of the business will be launched. Meanwhile, more chestnut trees are being planted and roughly 2600 will be in the ground by the close of 2019 --- approximately 25% of the current goal.
Years will pass before trees mature and startup costs are recovered. Profits are nowhere in sight. But with those he loves united behind a common purpose, Dad is already seeing returns on his investment. The kind of returns that make a man feel very rich indeed.