Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Short Course: March 31-April 1

This year is a little earlier than usual, to avoid conflicts with Easter and other scheduled events. Prices are currently held at the same extremely low price of $309; $279 early-bird registration before March 15. The overall organization will be similar to the last several years (see the 2010 page here; you can use that order form), but we are considering holding a few concurrent sessions in order to present more advanced and specialized material.
I'll post the one-page flyer for this year later today, and we will continue updating details over the next few days. Expect more coverage this year on propagation details, establishment in drought/difficult conditions, and of course machine harvest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THIS SATURDAY: Sustainable Farming Association of MN

This Saturday, February 18, our CEO and Chief Scientist Philip Rutter will be giving a talk at the 2012 annual conference of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. Badgersett will have an exhibit table as well.

Philip's talk is currently slated for 2:30, and titled:
"What's All This About Hazelnuts?"

The short description of the talk is as follows:
"In the past few years buzz and investment in hazelnuts for the Upper Midwest have increased dramatically. All of the interest originated from the investigations started at Badgersett Farm 30+ years ago; and all the crop genetics currently producing, also. Do hybrid bush hazelnuts have a future in sustainable farming practices in Minnesota? The talk will cover whole-system theory, practices, the current state of the art, last year's first machine harvest, and several different paths forward. Is this the first real perennial agricultural crop? Badgersett is now expanding plantings, and experimenting with integrating animals with commercial scale nut production."

If you're already planning to attend, please stop by! Otherwise, if you're within range of St. Joseph, this year's conference schedule looks like a good one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Badgersett Research Farm 2012 Internship Posting

Through most of the '90s, Badgersett had interns most summers. Our experience with them varied, but we had many good experiences. We stopped offering internships following a couple of less-good years, and our realization that at the time we were not able to provide the interns with enough support in their learning.
This year, we are happy to announce that we are once again ready to support interns. We'll prefer upperclassmen and graduates, but really the most important traits are openness to learning, enthusiasm, and ability to work.
Please feel free to cross-post this opportunity and send it along to people you think might be particularly well suited to an experience here.


Woody Perennial Agriculture Internship (room & board)

Badgersett Research Corporation, the originator and developer of Woody Agriculture, is looking for 2-3 sensible, motivated, inquisitive individuals for a 13 week on-farm experience. Interns will gain the most advanced hands-on experience available anywhere, in the nuts and bolts of ecologically integrated management, planning and establishment of Woody Ag (nut) fields. Field experimentation, hybrid swarm breeding, animal integration, greenhouse production and green off-grid building will all be introduced, and particularly-directed individuals may be able to choose an experience focused in one of these areas.
In exchange for room and board, two individuals will also be involved (15 hours/week) in day-to-day operation of a sustainable small farm, greenhouse and organic orchard. Housing includes a room shared with the other intern, and other living space shared with Badgersett’s research associate in a renovated, former-Amish home.


Minimum requirements are having completed college-level biology and ability and willingness to work outside in most weather doing physical work and getting dirty (lots of walking, repeated light to medium lifting). Also required is an appropriate attention to detail (working with research projects) and willingness to accept instruction. Preference will be given to individuals with some farming, gardening, power equipment, or animal raising experience. Experience in and evidence of a commitment to personal involvement in sustainable agriculture and living is also preferred.


Time Commitment

Hours can vary with the tasks at hand, but expect 8-9 hour days 5-6 days a week. Some days will be longer. Duties will include greenhouse tending, field planting and maintenance in addition to the research projects in which you will participate.

Application Process

Send a résumé and contact information for 3 references to, along with a one-page cover letter addressing at least a) What has motivated you to apply for this position? and b) What skills and interests do you have which you see fitting in particularly well here? Please send application materials as PDF attachments. Selection will begin on March 1 and continue until all positions are filled.
Fore those with a very serious interest in and dedication to sustainable agriculture, we are also taking applications for long-term apprenticeship; a two-year experience for an unparalleled learning opportunity in perennial crop agriculture and off-grid living.


Badgersett Research Corporation (BRC, is a pre-IPO, dynamic company which has been working for 30 years to transform agriculture into a nondestructive enterprise. BRC is the originator and developer of Woody Agriculture systems, whose primary products are advanced hybrid nut-producing plants, and the technical know-how for growing, harvesting and marketing these crops. Our products have growing demand in both domestic and international markets.

Some quick links to give you a more complete idea of who we are, and what we do:

Monday, February 6, 2012

What's keeping us busy.

As you know, we're experimenting with incorporating livestock of several kinds into the nut crop practices. The goal being to find pathways that make economic sense, and to sort out at what scale which practices might make sense.

Livestock require attention; 365 days a year; unless you are just buying feeder stock, selling them on, and not over wintering anything. In our case, we're still learning what makes sense, and therefore we do winter chickens, guineas, the sheep, and of course the horses.

About a month ago we suddenly hit an urgent need to increase the protection of our sheep from the local coyotes. In fact the first livestock we acquired were dogs- specifically trained and intended to be livestock guard animals. We have two, who are well trained (now), roam free on the farm 24 hours a day, and who have been doing a fine job of keeping predators at a distance, from both sheep and poultry.

There have been coyotes here from the outset; and while the dogs have been successful so far- coyotes are very intelligent; and very adaptable.

Last month the local coyotes jumped up their pressure. Three times, we caught them in the process of intentionally teasing and distracting the guard dogs- and pulling them away from the sheep. Fortunately for us, we were kind of expecting this to happen some day, and we were able to break up the tactic. Once the dogs were aware, they effectively chased the pack off.

In the long run, however, this is a war the coyotes are sure to win, eventually. Additional safety measures were called for. Out of the various options possible (enclosing the sheep, acquiring a Great Pyrenees type guard dog, llamas...) we opted for this:

Meet Anastasia; our new guard mule. She's a "pony-mule", barely larger than a small donkey; those are some of the Icelandic sheep in the background. She's 3 years old, and only halter broke, but shows a basic friendliness and willingness to put up with nonsense that gives us hope we can also train her to do light draft chores around the farm; perhaps helping haul nuts out of the fields during harvest, for example.

Finding, transporting, and acclimating her to her new world, however- took most of a week for 2 people. Time that was not in our original time budgets; but which the coyote/sheep/research equation suddenly required.

Incidentally- we're currently very optimistic about using the sheep in the hazels- as a "pre-coppice" treatment. They unquestionably remove a great deal of small hazel shoot material, which has low biomass value, but great nuisance potential.

This is the current sheep paddock, which includes about 150' of rows G and H; both in serious need of coppice renovation. As you can see here, weeds have been removed and the way cleared for easy access to the hazel crowns. Less obvious in the picture, since we don't have the "before" image easily available, is that the crowns have been dramatically thinned, and unexpectedly, wood damaged by Eastern Filbert Blight has mostly been broken out and removed. Those stems have decreased fuel value in any event, and are also troublesome during coppice, as they break erratically and escape standard bundling. Now- they're gone.

We'll be tracking the effects of the sheep on soil fertility and pH. Keep in mind that though keeping sheep (and mules) is usually thought of as a practice for the small farmer, we're investigating their potential for larger commercial scale use also. Income is income- and it's possible that even at large scales, integrating animals may make straight economic sense.

There is plenty more to learn here; but at the moment, it's encouraging. It's even quite possible that the extra time required by managing the sheep will be quickly repaid by decreased time and energy required to perform the coppice.