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Hulled black walnuts will bring $15 per hundred pounds from Hammons in 2016

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Bags of black walnuts await shipping to Hammons in Stockton, the world's largest processor of black walnuts

Bags of black walnuts await shipping to Hammons Products Co. in nearby Stockton, Mo., the world’s largest processor of black walnuts.

Hammons Products Co. of Stockton, Mo., the world’s leading commercial processor of black walnuts, will pay a record $15 per hundred pounds of hulled black walnuts when the season begins Oct. 1.

That’s a $1 increase over 2014 and 2015 harvests, and may not reflect price during picking. Indeed, $14 is the opening price east of the Mississippi River.

Hammons will pay this record-breaking price to those who harvest and turn in Black Walnuts at any of their 200+ hulling stations. A list of official purchasing sites is found here, or by calling 1-888-429-6887.

Buying/hulling stations will begin buying on Saturday, October 1. The high price could change later in the season, so harvesters are encouraged to get their harvest turned in quickly.

Black Walnuts grow wild in forests, pastures, and backyards across the nation’s heartland. Every fall the nuts are hand-foraged before being purchased, processed, and distributed by Hammons Products Company, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Since its founding by Ralph Hammons in 1946, the company has continued to be family-owned, family-run, and based in Stockton, Missouri.

October is National Black Walnut Month in celebration of the harvest and the array of food enhanced by the rich, bold flavor – from ice cream and baked goods to savory fare and chef-inspired creations. Unlike regular walnuts, the American Black Walnut is a highly sustainable wild crop, grown without the need for orchards or chemicals. For recipes.

In 1946, grocer Ralph Hammons noticed a lot of wild Black Walnuts growing all over Southwest Missouri. Seeing the future potential of this local crop, he bought a cracking machine and began buying Black Walnuts from the hardworking Ozarks people who gathered them each fall. Since then, the company has survived short crops, fad diets and a destructive tornado to become the world’s leading supplier of American Black Walnuts.

Today, Hammons Products Company continues to buy Black Walnuts in the same nostalgic way. Coming to the company from over 215 local buying stations across 11 states, the

efforts of thousands of people working together has helped make the American Black Walnut an integral piece of Midwest culture.

The processing plant in the small town of Stockton, MO has developed and grown, employing over 80 people with another 20 during the fall harvest season. The SQF level-3 certified plant shells about 25 million pounds of nuts each year, producing Black Walnut nutmeats for food ingredients and ground nut shells for industrial uses.

Hammons Products relies on the public to harvest the rest from the wild. The company has 214 designated hulling sites set up across the Midwest, including the Ozark Empire Fairground, Wildcat Tool Rental in Rogersville and a site at Ash Grove.

Hammons Products President Brian Hammons told the News-Leader that the company purchases about 23 million pounds of nuts in an average season, and that he’s hopeful this year will be in the 20 to 24 million range.

“It definitely will be much better than last year,” he said.

Hammons said the company purchased less than 10 million pounds in 2015, and that it was the first time he could recall more nuts being purchased at sites outside Missouri than inside the state. In an average year, he said, Missouri accounts for 65 percent of the harvest.

After hulling, the nuts are processed in Stockton, and then used in food products and sold in grocery stores around the country.

“A lot of people are discovering that bold flavor,” Hammons said, noting that black walnut ice cream is a local favorite.

Hammons Products also sells the ground shell for use in abrasive cleaning and filtration applications; the dark nutmeats or meal that are not fit for human consumption are sold for animal feed, or used to create black walnut oil.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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