- Additional Plants: trees
- Miscellaneous: syrup
- Crop Production: forestry
One of the problems that we have experienced farming in Eastern Kentucky is a serious lack of diversity. This lack of diversity is clear as you drive through farm country, stop at a farmers market, or stop by the local farmer hangout. This hole becomes even larger when winter arises as farming options become even more limited to animal husbandry. Crop farmers are dependent on the summer’s financial gains to see them through the winter or they have to pick up work with something else. Additionally there is the disturbing trend to log off or clear land which often has limited agriculture usage but yields a one time financial boost. However, the logging of forests has the potential to create an abundance of environmental issues as well as secondary costs for the farmer, community, and organizations like NRCS.
Our farm believes that the answer to the economic void and environmental impact of farming is to work in cooperation with the environment. Specifically we believe that a winter niche market that is viable at a small level all the way to a large scale is syrup production. The idea of syrup production instantly jumps to maple syrup. However, this is a very narrow view of syrup production in the South. Eastern KY and the South have a large population of maple and black walnuts, both of which can be taped and used for syrup production. The beauty of this economic adventure is that farmers can start with a very small investment producing a few gallons and can grow into producing as much as they want. This adventure even has the possibility of coops to spread the cost of equipment investment for farmers.
The development of syrup production will create two very unique and valuable cash products at a time of year that many farmers have limited income, but extra time available. Additionally the development of both male and walnut syrups allows farmers to work with the resources they have on their farm or on the farms around them to maximize production and profit. Additionally with the incorporation of a profitable sustainable use for trees other than logging there could be a huge environmental gain that would have positive effects far beyond the pocket of the farmer.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our farm has already gathered data on the quality of walnut syrup, sap yield, content in sap and other relevant data. However, there are still many unknown variables that exist.
As a result, we would like to incorporate already existing maple sugarbush management practices into our black walnut lines to gather data. The goal with these practices would mirror the goal that maple syrup producers have in increasing sugar content in sap, increase sap yield, decrease boil time, and increase profit.