Pioneer farm hosts diverse ag options event

March 14, 2003

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Steve Walker of Midwest Organic Services Association discusses organic certification at the recent Diverse Ag Options program held at UWP Pioneer Farm. UWP Public Relations photo/Andy McNeill

PLATTEVILLE-You could almost hear the plink of nuts falling on the frozen ground as Mark Shepard touted the advantages of growing hazelnuts and chestnuts.

Shepard, who grows 30 to 40 acres of hazelnuts between Viola and Richland Center, was among presenters at the Diverse Ag Options information session held at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm in early March.

Grant County Economic Development Director Ron Brisbois organized the event to educate landowners on various options. "There is a need for options for smaller farmers to compete and continue farming," said Brisbois.

Chestnut farming was popular for food and timber in the early 1800s, said Brisbois. Then the European blight wiped out 99 percent of chestnuts in the U.S., and chestnut farming became a thing of the past, he added.

Now it may be making a comeback.

Shepherd said there is a thriving international market for chestnuts. "You can make more products out of hazelnuts than soybeans," he said.

Hazelnuts contain three times the oil of soybeans and can be used to produce a type of diesel fuel, said Shepherd, who serves on the Resource Conservation Development Board. Currently, the U.S. imports about 90 percent of hazelnuts from Turkey, he added.

Other presenters talked about organic certification and production, grazing dairy farming and ag tourism.

Grant County Economic Development, Southwest Wisconsin Small Business Development and Fennimore Economic and Industrial Development sponsored the event, with the assistance of Scenic Rivers Energy and New Horizons.

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