When Americans hear the word chestnuts, they might conjure images of snowy, holiday evenings and roaring fires. But for most of the world, chestnuts are part of the daily diet. Cooks in some countries use the nut as a starchy substitute, while others treat chestnuts as an ingredient in decadent desserts.
This global demand means that chestnuts are a growing industry. The market is clamoring for the nut, with sales projected to increase by 2.2% annually over the next five years. While 27 countries around the world grow chestnuts, the United States has largely ignored the crop.
In a new report, the Savanna Institute outlines the potential for new chestnut farms to sprout up in the United States, providing a valuable crop for farmers. But beyond cutting a share of the $5.4 billion annual market, planting chestnuts on American soil is also beneficial in other ways: the report outlines the benefits of growing chestnuts in agroforestry systems, which include diversification of farmers’ crops, carbon sequestration that cools the climate, wildlife habitat creation, and slowing soil erosion.
Since current supplies are far below the demand, some smaller-scale chestnut farms have been popping up throughout the Midwest and Eastern U.S. as private businesses clamor for the nut. The new Savanna Institute report aims to guide farmers into the market, providing information on how to best transition agricultural land to the perennial tree crop.