By MATTHEW D. ERNST
BEDFORD, Ind. — Lana Blackwell said her and her husband’s buying station in Bedford only purchased about half its usual 100,000-pound black walnut crop this year.
Because of poor spring pollination and drought, that story was the same at Indiana’s other established black walnut buying stations for Hammons Product Company of Stockton, Mo.
“We were finding in stands of 20 or 30 trees, there might only be two or three that had nuts on them,” said Luke Rhodes, who hulled 30 tons of walnuts last year in Newberry, southeast of Bloomington. “We’ll be doing good to total a third of what we had last year.”
Emma and Glen Yoder operate a hulling station in Centreville, Mich., 15 miles from the Indiana state line. “We have been buying for six years,” said Emma. “Last year we did about 220,000 pounds, but this year we had 108,000, and the black walnuts were smaller.”
Smaller nutmeats do not mean poorer quality nuts, say black walnut hullers. “The quality of the nuts on the ones I cracked out was right up there this year,” said Luke.
Matt Burkhart of Delphi also reported good-quality nutmeats. His buying station was one of at least four new stations in Indiana this year, and he aimed to hull 10,000 pounds. He was happy with his actual volume, around 7,000 pounds.
“Overall, I’m pleased, because it was such a hard year (for walnuts),” he said.
Operators at other new black walnut hulling stations in Indiana also reported a challenging first year. Martha Avery of American Woodlands Products, at Knightstown, had a family illness hamper her first year of buying but is looking ahead to next season.
“The people we had bring black walnuts were very enthusiastic,” said Avery, who splits time between a home in Boulder, Colo., and Indiana. She started the hulling station as a way to harvest walnuts from her family’s Indiana woodlands.