Grown Here at Home: Virginia Chestnuts in Nelson County is back after losing crop in 2020

It’s harvest time for Virginia Chestnuts in Nelson County, and this year is extra special.
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:25 AM EDT
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NELSON CO., Va. (WDBJ) - 2020 hit hard for Kim and David Bryant. They own Virginia Chestnuts. Along with the challenges of the pandemic, they lost their entire crop.

“In the spring of 2020 we had two late freezes and the first one came and we thought, okay, we probably had a little damage to the trees, we’ll be alright, and then the second one came and we had such significant damage that it not only took our chestnuts, but it took the chestnuts for the rest of the county. There were no chestnuts to be found really in Virginia,” Kim explained.

There are about 1,600 trees in the orchard. It was a devastating loss. The good news is things are looking up.

“We had a lot of rain in the month of August, which just couldn’t have been more perfect timing,” Kim said.

The husk is prickly, so you won’t be picking them off the trees.

“The chestnut husk is going to start to brown and it’s going to split open. The chestnuts then fall to the ground. Then the harvester comes along and picks up those chestnuts. When the harvester is done, we manually come along and pick them up as well,” explained Kim.

For that, they use a nut gatherer. It’s rolled over the chestnuts and it picks them up. Although losing their crop was hard, the Bryants chose to turn the obstacle into an opportunity.

“We got to thinking about opening it up to special tour groups and just starting to do pick your own for people who just want to come out and spend a day on a weekend and pick a couple chestnuts and learn about that process,” Kim said.

They have several Pick (Up) Your Own Chestnuts dates: September 24, 25, and 26, and October 2, 3, 9, 10, and 11. The farm will be open from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Virginia Chestnuts is located at 5990 Wheelers Cove Road, Shipman, Va., 22971. For more information, visit Virginia Chestnut’s website.

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