Rural Action will partner with three farmers from the Route 9 Chestnut Cooperative and the Shagbark Seed & Mill to develop value-added fine chestnut flour that can be marketed to our region’s bakeries, restaurants and retail markets.
The demand for culinary chestnuts far exceeds the supply from our region. However, chestnut farmers from the Route 9 Chestnut Cooperative report that up to 20% of their harvest is Grade B (up to 20,000 lbs) and therefore unsellable as fresh chestnuts. These Grade B chestnuts promise a good return if they could be processed into a fine culinary flour, but the system for drying and milling is not yet developed in our region. Currently, the Cooperative uses low-tech equipment to create a coarse flour and does not have the capital to scale up and optimize the process to produce a fine chestnut flour. This project will research and document best milling practices, convene producers at two field days for peer learning, and gather qualitative data from buyers who are provided chestnut flour samples to evaluate. We seek to meet the need of diversifying producers’ chestnut portfolios in order to increase the production of this sustainable, climate-resilient crop.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Research and develop the processing requirements to make fine chestnut flour out of grade B chestnuts
- Identify the optimal milling equipment needed
- Record best practices for processing at a margin that’s economically viable for the farmer and miller
- Improve chestnut flour product through gathering qualitative data from a select customer base that is given samples to evaluate
- Write elements of a business plan for processing grade B chestnuts that could be incorporated into any chestnut grower business plans
- Host two field days at Route 9 to gather producers and customers to learn about value-added products and chestnut potential