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Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015

Walnut business is picking up

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weekend collecting brought a line of vehicles to Farm Pro in Monett on Monday morning. Shown unloading the harvest into the hulling machine, from left, are Jon Egleston, Bryce Isbell, Tyler Bass and Zach Swearingen. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]
After a slow start, the walnut harvest is picking up in Monett.

Walnuts collected in and around town are brought in for hulling at Farm Pro in Monett during October. Farm Pro has been a buyer for Hammons Product Company, based in Stockton, since the store opened 15 years ago.

According to Farm Pro spokesman Jon Egleston, the Monett store purchased just over 300,000 pounds of walnuts last year, which was a particularly good season. This season started out very slowly. By the end of the first week, the entire stockpile of nuts purchased equalled about a day's worth last year.

Monday was a different story. Cars lined up out to Highway 37 with nuts to sell. "We bought 9,000 pounds of nuts on Monday," Egleston said. "That was a typical day's worth last year."

This year's harvest is expected to be smaller than last. Egleston expected it would take the first frost to make the nuts fall. He attributed Monday's influx from people out harvesting nuts over the weekend.

Collecting nuts is done in a number of ways. Pulaskifield resident Tim Younker, who brought in 87 pounds of nuts last week, said he heads into a walnut grove with a bucket and a feed sack. Some use a rake. The higher-tech method calls for using a Walnut Wizard, a device resembling a hamster wheel on a broom handle that picks up nuts inside a ribbed wheel when rolled across the ground.

Like strawberry picking of old, walnut collecting involves a lot of back work at a relatively low price. One hundred pounds of walnuts sells for $11.

Farm Pro has a machine on loan from Hammons at the rear of the store on Highway 37 that knocks the hulls off with pressure from rotating disks inside. The machine then feeds the contents out one end into bags that are ready for shipment.

Hammons buys walnuts from around 15 states and sells them nationwide, Egleston said.

The only downside to the harvest is the hulls. Dean Myers, a three-year employee at Farm Pro and president of the Monett FFA Chapter, said the store has about a three-year pile of hulls out back. The hulls are very acidic. While they can be put back into fields for fertilizer, Myers said a great deal of lime has to be placed with them to balance out the pH level in the ground.

Egleston expected to see many busy days ahead receiving this year's Walnut harvest.

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