My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Selling Walnuts

Did you ever wonder where your grocery-store walnuts come from?  They may have come from Amish Indiana.

I have an Amish friend who we’ll call Lily, who cleans a few wealthy people’s houses for extra income.  At one of them, one of her yearly tasks is to remove the hundreds of fallen walnuts from the lawn.  This year, she collected them in old feed bags and brought them home.

A few days after this task was completed, Lily phoned me, and we loaded six or seven bags of walnuts into the back of my SUV.  Off we went to a nearby Amish farm located between Middlebury and Shipshewana, Indiana.  (Or should I say, she loaded them—I’m a city girl by birth and I have about one-tenth the strength of the average Amish woman!) 

The farmer had an ancient Hammons black walnut huller – a big green machine that could crack the tough outer hull but leave the inner shell that we’re all familiar with, intact.

So, the gas engine was fired up, and the bags were unloaded into the machine one by one.  The walnuts went up a conveyor belt and into the depths of the machine. 

Down a chute on the left side came the walnuts 
and into green bags.

Out the other side came the shredded hulls, which went by conveyor belt into an old wooden farm wagon, to be spread on the fields.  Nothing is wasted! 

In the end, Lily sold a little over 200 pounds of walnuts, so at $15 per 100 pounds, she was written a check for $32.  I remarked that it was a lot of work for $32—but as she pointed out, the homeowner she cleans for had paid her by the hour to pick up the walnuts, so this was just frosting on the cake! 

She said that sometimes, on Amish farms with walnut trees, selling walnuts is a nice project for the children of the family—they can all help gather up the walnuts into bags, and then the money can be used for something special and fun.

By the time we were ready to leave, there were two Amish buggies in line behind my SUV.  The owner said that last year on the last day of walnut season, there were buggies lined up all the way down the gravel driveway and then down the road—a three-hour wait!

The walnuts are then sent off for further processing along the farm-to-table food chain.  So think of that next time you buy a bag of walnuts!

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