Fall is here, and with it comes cooler weather, leaves changing color, and harvest season. A local farm right here in Preble County brings in a unique kind of harvest. Just two miles northeast of Eaton, you will find the Price family buying black walnuts this time of year.
Black walnuts are a hassle to homeowners who have to pick them up to avoid stepping on them or hitting them with a lawnmower. While many folks wind up setting the nuts out with the trash or dumping them in the woods, but there is a market for them.
The Price family, consisting of the husband-and-wife team of BJ and Cathy and their three sons Jimmy, Sammy, and Johnny, began buying nuts nine years ago and has been at it ever since. They work for the Hammons Products Company of Stockton, Missouri.
When asked what a typical year looks like, BJ replied, “There is no typical year,” he said. “We might not buy enough to fill a semi-trailer or we might buy three semi-trailer loads.”
As it turns out, walnut crops run on a two-year cycle, with the odd-numbered years being good nut-producing years in this part of Ohio, and the even-numbered years typically being poorer years in terms of total pounds of nuts harvested.
You may wonder how a person goes about gathering and selling walnuts. Most folks say the fastest way to pick them up is to just get down on the ground on your hands and knees with a five-gallon bucket and start picking them up by the handfuls.
Nuts can be transported in buckets, bags, 55-gallon drums, or any container that can be easily dumped out. The nuts are run through a huller that knocks the green shucks off of the shell. Customers are paid by the weight of the in-shell nuts after hulling. Nuts get bagged up in approximately 40-45 pound bags which are then stacked on pallets and left to air-dry, awaiting shipment to Missouri later in the season.
The harvest season generally runs the entire month of October. The Price family handles all buying by appointment only, and will purchase any quantity ranging from a few buckets worth to a trailer full.
Some folks come out just to see how the operation works. When asked how much money a person can make, BJ says, “You can easily make enough to take your wife out to dinner. It just depends on whether you want to go to Taco Bell or Red Lobster.” In all reality, a pickup truck load of walnuts may be worth up to $125 if it is loaded full.
To contact the Prices and get more information, call (937) 456-4803. They are always looking for more folks to collect nuts. And as their son Jimmy says, “Money really grows on trees.”