By DOUG GRAVES
CAMDEN, Ohio — For those owning black walnut trees, there have been three options when dealing with often unwanted nuts: leave them to the squirrels, gather them for trash or dump them in the ravine out back. Now there’s a more profitable way to deal with this hand-staining crop.
B.J. Price, educator with the Preble County Soil and Water Conservation District in Ohio, talked Hammons Products Co. in Stockton, Mo., into setting up a local buying station.
“I contacted Hammons several years ago about setting up a local buying station, but the company wasn’t looking to contract with any new buyers at the time,” Price said, “but this past spring they agreed and wanted to set up the buying station on my dad’s farm just outside of Eaton.”
The buying station is located at 1190 Bantas Creek Road, just east of Eaton-Lewisburg Road, a short drive from downtown Eaton and roughly 15 miles from the Oct. 10 25th annual Black Walnut Festival in Camden.
“Anyone with walnuts and wanting to sell them simply needs to bring them to the farm and there they will be de-hulled, cleaned, weighed and bagged. Hammons will pay each person $13 per 100 pounds,” Price said.
Later in the fall, pallets of walnuts will be trucked to Missouri to be put in storage for future processing. Hammons used the nutmeat for cakes, cookies, candies and it is also sold separately in bags, but the shell is put to use many ways, as well.
The processed shell can be used as an industrial abrasive, in beauty products, in soap as a cleanser and used as a filler for dynamite. Hammons goes so far as to purchase nut shells from other processors to meet its demand for the product.
The processing machines have appeared throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan in recent years, but seldom has it made an appearance in southwestern Ohio. According to Price, the area is fortunate to see its arrival this fall.
Hammons began operation in 1946. Ralph Hammons couldn’t keep enough black walnuts on his grocery store shelves in the little town of Stockton. Seeing the future potential of this local crop, he bought a cracking machine and began buying wild nuts from the hard-working Ozarks people who gathered them each fall.
Since then the company has survived short crops, fad diets and a destructive tornado to become the world’s leading supplier of American black walnuts. Today, Hammons makes use of 250 hulling stations in 16 states.
“We’re happy to have Hammons and their hulling machine in the area, but I’m afraid there may be a shortage of crop this year and that’s due to the drought we’ve had,” Price said. “But then, that depends on who you ask. Some people say they have an abundance of walnuts from their trees, while others have witnessed a shortage of nuts. A lot of it depends on where the drought hit hardest.”
He harvests his own nuts and mixes the hulls with manure to spread the mixture on his fields.
For more information about walnut processing, contact Price at 937-733-2111.
Hulling stations in Indiana can be found at The Walnut Place, 3293 Back Creek Road, Bedford – call 812-834-6350; Lost Creek Feed & Grain, 2450 Lost Creek Road, Ramsey, 812-347-2412; Schnellville Mill, Inc., 8476 E. Schnellville Road, Schnellville, 812-389-2232; American Woodlands Products, 7671 W. 1200 North, Carthage, 303-301-4695; and Quarry Hills Farm, 1093 E. 600 North, Rochester, 574-930-6784.
Stations in Kentucky can be found at Jason Marshall Bros., 571 State Highway 36 West, Cynthiana, 859-298-4621; Barnes Hardware and Lumber, 203 Ridgeway Avenue, Falmouth, 859-654-8381; and Bruce’s Grocery, U.S. Highway 25, Mason, 859-824-4376.