Client Focus: Nutwood Farm

The patient path to a nutty crop

Nutwood Farm in Cummington is not your typical farm. In addition to growing tree nuts, mostly hazelnuts and blight-resistant chestnuts, and raising ducks and sheep, owners Seva and Kaylan Water follow regenerative agroforestry practices to restore soil health and sequester carbon, exploring longtime indigenous land management techniques.

The Waters recently worked with Massachusetts Agriculture Innovation Center (MAAIC) Financial Business Advisor Myra Marcellin and received a small grant from the Franklin County CDC to go on a nut processing adventure in upstate New York. Loaded down with three years’ worth of their stored harvested hazelnuts, they started the journey at Finger Lakes Nut Farm in Locke, NY, where they used a Turkish-made dehusking machine to remove the nuts’ dried husks. They then went to the New York Tree Crop Alliance (NYCTA)’s new processing center in Cortland, NY. There they used a Spanish-made commercial Borrell nutcracker to crack the nuts (about 100 pounds per hour), and then a custom-built vacuum aspirator designed in Wisconsin to separate the hazelnut kernels from the shells. (See photos of this machine on their Instagram feed.)

“The equipment is still relatively new to the operators and our batch was only the third batch of nuts to go through the process, so the team there was grateful for the opportunity to continue calibrating and refining their equipment and operations,” Seva reported.

“We all gathered valuable insight and a better understanding of ways to increase efficiency in the future,” she continued. “In the end, we achieved a 25% to 32% kernel-to-shell ratio, taking home about 130 pounds of whole hazelnut kernels. We also took home the mixed shell byproduct to experiment with using as animal fodder.”

Seva and Kaylan didn’t have enough time or the right set up to do a final hand sorting with a conveyor belt at the end of the day to remove uncracked nuts and shell fragments from the final product so they are doing this gradually by hand at home. However, “utilizing the commercial grade equipment has dramatically reduced our labor hours and allowed us to begin experimenting with potential value-added products made from our very own nuts!”

NYTCA is still in the process of obtaining food safety certification at the center, which they hope to have in place by the fall of 2024, according to Seva. This means that Nutwood Farm won’t be able to sell any of the nuts from this processing trip commercially. 

They are working toward getting their home kitchen certified for cottage food processing to make homemade nut butters. They have experimented with making roasted flavored hazelnuts, raw and toasted hazelnut butter, nut butter mixed with combinations of honey and cacao, chocolate covered hazelnut clusters, and chocolate-dipped hazelnut butter truffles. “They are all delicious,” Seva said, “the last one is particularly out of this world.”

“Thank you for supporting this vital next step for our farm!” 

We look forward to what’s to come from Nutwood Farm!