High Value Enterprises for Small Spaces:Accelerating Commercialization and Integration of Woody Florals and Hybrid Hazelnuts in Sustainable Systems

2007 Annual Report for LNC05-261

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $149,997.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Scott Josiah
Nebraska Forest Service
Troy Pabst
Nebraska Forest Service

High Value Enterprises for Small Spaces:Accelerating Commercialization and Integration of Woody Florals and Hybrid Hazelnuts in Sustainable Systems


This ambitious, producer-driven and implemented project is strategically accelerating the short and long term development of profitable, sustainable, woody-based agricultural systems in the Midwest. It is integrating two woody crops into small-to-medium farm enterprises – woody florals and hybrid hazelnuts. It strategically targets key barriers that limit commercialization and builds on strong producer links to promote large-scale adoption. Producers “own” this project, ensuring that solutions are feasible, relevant, and permanently integrated into their enterprises, and encouraging rapid spread.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objectives/Performance Targets and Accomplishments

Objective #1
Increased woody floral visibility and demonstrated profitability through 12 new on-farm demonstration plantings in 4 states:

Currently we have 12 woody floral growers who have established commercial woody floral plantings under this project in 3 states: Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota. Those participants are listed above. To date 2,311 plants have been distributed between these 12 growers. A grower steering committee, consisting of six of these participants has been established and meets quarterly to ensure that the project is grower/participant directed.

Objective #2
Develop a permanent network of 12 woody floral (WF) producer “agents” to promote specialty woody crops, and who are regarded as reliable local sources of information.

This project has 12 producer “agents”, all of the project participant / growers are listed above under the heading of Project Participants. Several of these agents have been involved in woody floral presentations and workshops as well as the formal development of NWF (Nebraska Woody Florals cooperative), which processes, markets and promotes growing of woody florals in the Midwest.

Objective #3
Significantly increase the number of woody floral growers as a result of project-supported direct landowner contacts and assistance by WF producer agents.

We have had limited success recruiting new growers through the planned grower-to-landowner contact approach. Several factors have contributed to this:
1) some of the growers know relatively few of their neighbors thus making recruiting difficult, or
2) those that have the means to grow or incorporate woody florals in their farming operations or acreages are not as interested as anticipated when the project was first proposed.

A new strategy was developed by the steering committee, in collaboration with NWF that used a more traditional approach such as seasonal field days and workshops as a means to promote woody floral production.

Objective #4
Conduct joint processing, marketing and market/product development via an existing specialty woody crop cooperative leading to greater farm profitability, greater market options for producers, and stronger producer-consumer links.

One new producer did harvest his woody floral plants and market them through NWF this past year. Most if not all of the grant participants are anticipating that harvest will begin in the fall of 2008. Although most of the participants in this grant do not have any saleable stems from the plant material that they received from the SARE grant money at this time, over half of the participants joined the Nebraska Woody Florals cooperative, indicating their long-term commitment to woody floral production, and the sustainable long–term impacts of this project. The cooperative, with 43 members, currently sells to wholesale florists located in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

Objective #5
Enhance producer access (24/7) to woody floral information, hybrid hazelnut production, processing, marketing, price and financial return information via an improved web-based market information system.

Currently the Nebraska Forest Service has an entire web page/Market Information System devoted to woody florals, one of the few such web pages. This web site outlines woody florals with interesting color, shapes, buds, fruit, flowers and other marketable characteristics. The URL for this web site is www.nfs.unl.edu/documents/SpecialtyForest/growersguideweb2007. This site includes photos of woody floral plants, plant descriptions, growth requirements, propagation methods, harvest information, production information, labor requirements, establishment costs, fresh market information and potential problems. This site also gives those interested in woody florals contact information on the NWF (Nebraska Woody Florals) cooperative. Updates were implemented in 2007 with new updates and links added once a year or every other year depending on new information.

Objective #6
Increased farm profitability by using superior cultivars of both WFs and hazelnuts, and through more efficient processing procedures and equipment.

Using project funds, project participants have planted a wide array of plants that are proven performers in our climate as well as many species that are “new” to the area. The following is a list of plants that have been purchased for field trials with SARE funds:

Flowering Almond, Bittersweet, ‘Black Knight’ Buddleia, Nanking Cherry, Coralberry, Snowberry Blood twig dogwood, Cardinal Dogwood, Red twig dogwood, Yellow twig dogwood, Black pussy willow, Pussy willow, Curly willow, ‘Scarlet Curls’ willow, StreamCo willow, Superba willow, Belgium Red willow, Hutchinsons Yellow willow, Select pussy willow, Black Maul willow, Vitelina willow, Chermesina willow, American willow, Yellow weeping willow, Giant pussy willow, Green Dicks willow, Flame willow, Fantail willow, Blue mist spirea, Candidissima Viburnum, Notcott Viburnum, Calvescens Viburnum, Nanny berry Viburnum, Wentworth Viburnum, Mariesii Viburnum, Winterhazel, Mt. Airy Fothergilla, Large Fothergilla, Arnold’s Witchhazel, Primavera Witchhazel, Pallida Witchhazel, Coral bark willow, Yellow flame willow, Yellow curly willow, Sweet birch, Winter Red Holly, Southern Gentleman Holly.

The project also purchased a complete drip irrigation system for each participant to ensure good plant survival and growth. A strapping machine was also purchased to reduce labor and speed the bundling and strapping of harvested woody florals. It has been of great help to growers interested in improved processing efficiencies.

Objective #7
Successful hazelnut tissue culture leading to the capacity to mass produce superior disease-resistant, hybrid hazelnut seedlings at a low cost

Working in conjunction with the National Arbor Day Foundation, an ambitious research project was started in the fall of 2002. The focus of this project was to screen a planting of 5,000 hazelnut plants for yield potential. Thanks in part to this SARE grant this project is still on-going. Ten potential new cultivars have been identified and yield data from the top 100 producing plants is still being collected each fall. We are currently working with Rutgers University to screen these plants for a devastating hazelnut disease called Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) that would limit their commercialization. These top producers have also been tested for their oil content and oil physical and chemical characteristics in collaboration with scientists at the Biological Systems Engineering department at the University of Nebraska. Tissue culture of those plants that have been identified as top producers as well as those plants that have EFB (Eastern Filbert Blight) resistance is the next step. As a direct result of the continued collaborative work on hybrid hazelnuts supported by this project, a consortium composed of the Nebraska Forest Service, Rutgers University, Oregon State University and the Arbor Day Foundation was formed to commercialize the hybrid hazelnut in the next ten years. The consortium recently submitted a $1,000,000 grant request to the USDA to support this effort. The project coordinator also has been investigating various types of nut processing equipment that may be applicable for processing hybrid hazelnuts. several machine designs have been identified and may be purchased (using seperate funding) this fall.

Objective #8
Development of experience-based enterprise budgets for woody floral enterprises

This will be completed in the final 1/3 of the project as more data becomes available.

Objective #9
An expanded and strengthened specialty woody crop community of interest region wide through the use of both “high touch” and “high tech” approaches

This combined high-touch and high-tech approach has been accomplished by providing each member with plant material and an irrigation system, and hands-on harvesting and processing workshops, combined with improving web-based information approach on the various cultivars and markets for woody floral production. We are also in contact through e-mail, meetings, workshops, and the steering committee.

Objective #10
Increased production and marketing knowledge of producers, agency personnel, florists, and teachers of vocational agriculture, floral design and natural resources in Native American Tribal Colleges through 8 targeted workshops, 5 field days, 3 publications, and quarterly e-newsletter.

To date 7 workshops have been conducted. During November 2005, 4 extension workshops were held on Woody Florals in Columbus, Lincoln, Fremont and Omaha Nebraska. In September of 2006 a workshop was held on proper processing techniques of Woody Florals. Each of these workshops had between 15 – 20 attendees present. The Project Coordinator personally delivered the plant material to Fort Berthold Community College (a tribal college) in New Town N. Dakota, and provided hands-on training to tribal college participants while there. NWF manned a booth and conducted floral design presentation with woody florals at the 2006 Wild Fruit & Nut jam, hosted by the Nebraska Forest Service, with 1400 in attendance. Two field days were also conducted; the first in November of 2005 when a harvesting and processing workshop was held with 60 attendees, the second was conducted in April of 2006 when a planting workshop was held with 15- 20 in attendance. In July, 2007 a Woody floral summer field day was held with 35 in attendance.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

At this time impacts and contributions/outcomes are beginning to accumulate. This project began in November of 2005. The first year of activity consisted of establishing the 12 woody floral plots, thus allowing each of the participants to become familiar with growing woody florals. These plantings are becoming core production plantings, building the production base for plant multiplication & woody floral production well into the future. These working plantings also serve as widely distributed demonstration sites, which are now being used for producer training and demonstration sites. Expanded collaborations with the NWF and the hazelnut commercialization consortium are opening up new opportunities for further development of these two commercial, but as yet, alternative crops. The anticipated benefit for producers in the North Central region is rural economic development as well as environmental conservation through the use of profitable permaculture systems based on woody florals and hazelnuts.


Kerry Hartman

Fort Berthold Community College
P.O. Box 490
New Town , ND 58763
Office Phone: 7016274738
Mike Dilts

22398 130th Street
Crescent, IA 51526
Office Phone: 7125453130
Henry Miller

88588 550th AVE
Crofton, NE 68730
Office Phone: 4023882727
Tom White

RR #2 Box 202
Falls City, NE 68355
Office Phone: 4022455468
Fritz Steinhoff

88069 566th AVE
Hartington, NE 68739
Office Phone: 4022542207
Lin Hangren

2612 County Road 39
Omaha, NE 68142-5172
Office Phone: 4024685205
Bruce Bostelman

2751 X Road
Brainard, NE 68626
Office Phone: 4025453871
Chad Kment

304 North Main
Plainview, NE 68769
Office Phone: 4025824462
Kathy & Gary Samuelson

2930 W. Road
Brainard, NE 68626
Office Phone: 4025982449
Eric Nelson

4047 Teri Lane
Lincoln, NE 68502
Office Phone: 4024884788
Sabine Becker

208 North 22nd Road
Unadilla, NE 68454
Office Phone: 4028284505
Jim Hruskoci

6280 South Engleman Road
Grand Island, NE 68803
Office Phone: 3083812428