By 1946, most of the American chestnut trees in the United States were dying of a blight that would eventually wipe out billions of them.
These giant trees dominated woodlands of the eastern portion of the United States from Alabama all the way up to Michigan, growing to 100 feet tall with trunks reaching 10 feet in diameter. In the fall, nutritious chestnuts blanketed the forest floors beneath their limbs, providing a feast for wildlife and people alike. The huge, straight trunks were used to make lumber for everything from building houses to railroad trusses.
Tragically, imported chestnuts from Asia brought a fungus to the American trees causing the giants that were once an integral part of our natural ecosystem to disappear from the landscape.
Luckily, there are many varieties of chestnut tree hybrid species that have prospered, producing larger nuts than their American counterpart which are just as tasty.
Mason County is the site of the largest commercial chestnut tree planting in the country. The trailblazing farm operation on Clarks Run Road will give local residents and farmers the opportunity to see firsthand how agroforestry works. This fall, 3,700 more trees will be added to the 5,500 already planted on the property owned by Keavin Hill. He’s teamed up with Mountain Gentry Farm, Propagate Ventures and Cargill in this uniquely beneficial project.
These particular chestnuts are rapid growers and produce a large nut that is a gourmet product. They’re also drought-tolerant and resilient to disease. Statistics show the nut market is expanding rapidly.