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Grown Here at Home: Virginia Chestnuts, a growing endeavor in Nelson County

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 7:32 AM EDT
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SHIPMAN, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia Chestnuts is a 45-acre farm run by David and Kim Bryant. The first-generation farmers started the chestnut orchard later in life as part of their retirement plan. Their plan was to plant some trees, harvest the chestnuts and make lots of money.

“But it didn’t work out exactly that way,” David said.

As it turns out, that might not be all that bad in the long run. The vision has expanded to include not only harvesting chestnuts, but marketing and processing them.

Back in the 1900s a blight took out billions of American Chestnut trees, so finding the right tree was key.

“We sought out a tree that was blight-resistant and we found one. It’s called a Dunstan Chestnut. It’s 95% American Chestnut and 5% Chinese Chestnut,” David explained.

The trees will be good for 75 years, and at full maturity, each will produce about 50 pounds of chestnuts.

On this journey, the Bryants have learned a lot along the way.

“We relied on a lot of international publications and data because there was no local knowledge source,” David said.

The Bryants are helping those who want to get started growing their own crop with Chestnut School. It’s a one-day, hands-on class in October. You can register here.

When buying chestnuts, the Bryants say local is best. Chestnuts have a large water content, and if they’re not stored properly can dry out, and the flavor isn’t very good.

“Press on the nut and make sure you can’t push in on it and then you know you’ve got one that’s been properly maintained and stored. Buy refrigerated, fresh chestnuts; you’ll be happy,” David said.

Although this chestnut adventure hasn’t quite turned out how the Bryants had planned, David said without hesitation they’re happy they’re sticking with it.

The Bryants are giving you a chance to go to the farm, learn about chestnuts and pick up some of your own. They have several Pick (Up) Your Own Chestnuts dates -- October 2, 3, 9, 10, and 11. The farm will be open each day from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Click here to learn more.

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