Friday, February 5, 2010

The Badgersett Growers Blog- Thanks, Jim (and family!)

 If you're here, we're assuming you're familiar with Badgersett Research, so we'll dive right in.

If you'll take a look at the dates separating the first post on this blog and the second, you will immediately be on the road to understanding the purpose of this change in our blog, and the purposes it will serve.

Dec. 17 to Feb. 5 is an absurdly long time for any business to allow a major public aspect to languish.

The fact is; we're desperately overloaded here.  We need about 8 people, full time, to be doing the day to day work.  We have 3.  We'll eventually get into how that happened, but not just now.  The reality is; the overload is so bad, and has been going on so long, that it is literally affecting our health; not for the better; and when one of us winds up with 4 sick days in a week, we get further behind.

All our communications channels suffer from this.  This blog is an attempt to make communicating about grower's concerns easier.

We've had a blog since 2002 - if you know your internet history, the word "blog" was just barely becoming current then, and services like Blogger and WordPress barely existed, and the entire phenomenon was just taking off.

So- we wound up being one of the very first "nut" oriented operations to have a blog- of any kind.  And the software that supported it; though it was state of the art in 2002- is now seriously out of date.  That's exactly why our entire website is a little behind (about 4 years).  We have one of, if not the, first website of any nut business in North America; maybe the world.  Using the software then available; which of course is now orphaned.  We're working on a total overhaul- as of 5 years ago.

Being the first one to stick your neck out is always expensive.  For us- the entire expense of setting up- and hosting, all those years- our original blog has been donated by Jim Stegman and his family business; as a way of supporting Badgersett.  It was a huge help, and very important to us; but the software had a bunch of built in limitations; by today's standards, it was very hard to use.

Now- on Blogger- it's easy.  If you have a comment (civil) - make it.  It'll appear sometime the same day, usually; and if you have a question, we'll actually try to answer the same day.  On the old blog, we had to go to it, and check for comments; alas, far too easy to forget, or postpone.  With the new blog, when a comment is made, it will be emailed to 3 people, any of whom can moderate it.  Probably; one of us will not be sick that day; and we'll try hard to get it done.

We want to answer your questions; never doubt that.  And provide a forum where growers can talk.  We're aware that a couple other efforts have been made to launch hazelnut forums, in particular; but if you've tried them, you've discovered a basic problem- they really don't have anyone there who has any more experience than you do.

We have 30 years- which is about 20 more than anyone else; and many tens of thousands of plants more than anyone in the midwest.  And scientific standards actually greatly more stringent than any of the universities doing work in this area.

You can "subscribe" to this blog; i.e. arrange it so that whenever we make a new entry, you get an email notice.  It's down at the bottom of the page.  I'm pretty sure you can also ask to be emailed if/when someone responds to your comment.  (If not, we'll fix that soon.)

This blog is not only for questions, comments, and a growers forum; it will also be a place for news, and statements from us about what we're doing; not only for our hazels, but for all 3 of our "NeoHybrid" crops; hazels, chestnuts, and hickory/pecans.  And other news about operations; for example- did you know the farm here now includes horses?  No?  We'll post about that soon.  (Horses eat grass, you know.)

(you can click on the pic for a bigger version)


  1. Hi there, glad to see you're active there. I put in about 30 of your hazels & 10 chestnuts last year in Maine, a very rocky, pretty shady site. Had poor survival of the chestnuts and want to try more this year; maybe I shouldn't have clipped the nuts off the tubelings after all? Currently the site is under a light snow cover and I'm staying away so as not to step in the wrong places.

  2. Dean- clipping the nuts off really should make no difference in survival- the normal thing in nature is for a mouse, squirrel, or jay to snip it off just as soon as the shoot emerges above ground. Are you on a limestone soil? The chestnuts aren't fond of that, though they usually survive.

  3. Hi, am interested in growing a 2 acre orchard of Hazelnuts in zone 4 with slightly higher average rainfall than Minnisota. Everything I read on the site seems to indicate this is doable. Stubling blocks for me right now are prepping the field (hay) and irrigation (borders river) and expenses involved in that, but before I invest more time, and any money, I want to be sure I am understanding correctly that we're past the research stage at this point and I can expect the bushes to establish given proper care and they should reach their full potential in 5 years?

  4. Anonymous- "Everything I read on the site seems to indicate this is doable."

    Well, it is- BUT. "seems" is an important choice of words. Why wouldn't it be definite?

    "I want to be sure I am understanding correctly that we're past the research stage at this point"

    There is part of our problem- and it's one we're only really figuring out ourselves. Hybrid hazels in the midwest are NOT completely past the research stage- more below

    " and I can expect the bushes to establish given proper care and they should reach their full potential in 5 years?"

    Yes, and yes- BUT- The potential for any one plant is somewhat unpredictable.

    Ok, more explanations- if you read the site carefully, it's couched in "conditional" tenses; i.e., the statements have ifs attached. In answer to my own question up above; "Why wouldn't it be definite?" It's not definite- because- it's NOT definite.

    While you can plant them and they will grow, and they will produce- you will NOT find any statements saying "you WILL make money growing these!"

    Nope; we don't say that anywhere; we'd love to if we COULD.

    Where we are is past the basic research; the demonstration of principles and demonstrations of potentials. Moving from demonstrations to the real world, though, is just never a simple jump. There are always unforeseen barriers (like when the U of MN planted a half acre with the roots 4" out of the ground) and pests differ in different locations- etc.

    Where we ARE is in the "Pioneering" stage. There are a bunch of growers getting started- many of whom are just too optimistic- but the whole SYSTEM necessary for a crop to be making money- simply DOES NOT EXIST. Which we DO tell people. There IS NO midwest hazel industry. Not yet- and it will be a long time before there really is.

    This misunderstanding; which we're trying to get corrected here and other places- is probably partly MY fault. (Though there are others with a good deal more fault there.)

    I was trained as an academic scientist - as a PhD, though I didn't finish it (see résumé).

    What that means is that when I write about my research, I tend to revert to scientific writing forms and standards. I.E. - very very tentative, with positive results stated conditionally, and probably rather confusingly for non-academic readers. And when something is omitted- like- profits per field per year- that's because it's understood in academia that means there are no profits to report. Or for sure they would be reported.

    What we've been telling people in plain English (we hope) is "Yes, it's time to START GROWING SOME of these." We haven't ever said "You should be planting acres and acres!" But some people have wanted to- in spite of our hesitancy- and have talked us into the idea that they know what they're doing, and they want to "pioneer" to that extent.

    Unfortunately, they don't alway pass our hesitations on to other interested folks.

    Yes, it's time for serious people to start planting some- because that is the next stage in developing a real crop. Many growers- many methods, many locations.

    But remember- pioneers may get rich- but it's just as likely they'll get slaughtered by savages or lost in the desert. And plenty of pioneers have. One discovered pocket gophers were deadly, before we knew it. Another discovered that just because someone says "I'm an expert at planting everything" doesn't mean they really are.

    It IS a complex subject- growing hybrid bush hazels as we see the system developing is very different from the way they are grown elsewhere in the world. It works- as ALL those who are interested in them have seen, here on Badgersett Farm. But there's still plenty to learn, and to know before jumping in.

    Seriously- come to the Short Course if you can. More on that soon, here and on the website.

  5. I have ordered some chestnuts and hazels for this season--many more than I need for my 3/4 acre Mpls site to see what "takes". I see the 2009 short course was cancelled. I really hope the short course will happen this year! Thanks for all your work!

  6. Your horse is beautiful. I can't wait to hear more about them :)

  7. Good to see you branching out with your ecosystem and letting us know via your new blog! What about goats? They seem to be a bit more useful than horses except where you need muscle...

    I'm enjoying the hazels and chestnuts that I put in my yard; they're growing well and some have already started to flower after just 2 years.

    Thanks so much for what you've done so far and I look forward to seeing the pioneers hashing things out!

    Eric in KC

  8. Is the horse a Frisian?

  9. Eric in KC - Goats! horrors! They eat trees! :-)

    A little more seriously; I think there may be possibilities there, but even in the one trial where sheep were given extensive access, the sheep ate too many hazel leaves and branches. Go slow, I think.

    and Anon Feb 17- outstanding eyes. Indeed, that's our papered Friesian stallion "Brigadier Bones", Brigadier, mostly. We're planning on stud fees paying for some of the expenses of the horses.