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He Set Up A Nut Hulling Business
Matt Folkert is nuts for black walnuts. The young entrepreneur operates a hulling station on his uncle’s farm that is one of a network of hulling stations contracted with Hammons Products. Folkert buys the nuts from his customers and then hulls them for Hammons Products, which is the only black walnut processor in the U.S. The company shells out around 25 million lbs. of black walnuts each year.
“I’m in my second year, and business has been pretty good,” reports Folkert mid-season. “I learned a lot the first year, and things are now going smoothly. I made sure I had space for full pallets.”
Hammons operates in 13 states, anywhere there is a good quantity of black walnuts, according to Alan Stauffacher, Hammons Products. The home plant is in Missouri, where picking walnuts and selling them is a heritage sideline. Stauffacher’s family has been doing just that for three generations.
“We try to make operating a hulling station as pain-free as possible,” he says. “We provide the machines, bags, and freight to ship the nuts to us. The operator brings in the business and disposes of the debris. They need to be someone interested in harvesting black walnuts and willing to get their hands dirty.”
Hammons Products pays a commission to hullers. While it can vary, this year it’s 6¢/lb. “We like our operators to be able to do 100,000 lbs. of nuts in the 5 to 6-week season,” says Stauffacher. “We had one location do 600,000 lbs. of black walnuts last year. In the past, we’ve had people do close to a million lbs. of nuts in a single season.”
Folkert’s customers also get paid by the pound of hulled nuts. This year the company paid 16¢, but Stauffacher says it can vary from 16 to 20¢/lb. depending on the cost of processing and the quality of the nuts the previous year.
Getting paid for black walnuts is what got Folkert into the business. When he was young, picking the nuts in their hulls was how he paid for things like video games.
“At the time there was a guy nearby who ran a buying station,” says Folkert. “He stopped, and no one else picked up the business. I sent the company a query, and here I am.”
Hulling black walnuts is a dirty business as the green hull stains hands. People harvesting nuts for their own use usually have a favorite way to separate the hull from the nut. YouTube is full of methods. The mechanical huller from Hammons Products is the fastest and easiest there is.
“The only thing we have to watch for is sticks,” says Folkert. “It chews right through little twigs and leaves.”
Folkert notes that his challenge the first year was simply getting the word out that he was open for business. He’s the only Hammons operator in Minnesota. He posted notices around the area and placed an article in the local newspaper.
“There were a surprising number of people who had contacted Hammons and were referred to me,” says Folkert. “I know word of mouth will take time.”
He notes that many of his customers pick up fallen nuts every year. Instead of dumping them in a ditch, they can sell them through him. Some, he adds, get serious and pick up everything they can find, whether on their lawn or in nearby woods.
“If you have walnut trees around you, mowing in late summer and picking up fallen branches can make the harvest easier,” he advises. “It still requires physical labor. Machines like the Nut Wizard (Vol. 45, No. 3) can make the job easier.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Matt Folkert, 54033 310th Ave., Elgin, Minn. 55932 (ph 507-259-9711; folke089@umn.edu); or Hammons Products Company, P.O. Box 140, Stockton, Mo. 65785 (toll-free 888-429-6887; info@black-walnuts.com; www.black-walnuts.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #6