The United States is feeding global and domestic appetites for tree nuts. Production has expanded rapidly in response to strong export demand and increased domestic utilization. In 2014, the value of U.S. tree nut production exceeded $10.4 billion. Growers in the Midwest are exploring and capitalizing on the potential of this perennial crop to increase farm income and diversify production. The Midwest is home to some successful nut businesses, and expanding tree nut production in this region can potentially increase the sustainability of agriculture and food systems.
In order to address some of the challenges of forming a business for aggregating, processing and marketing tree nuts, the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) conducted case study research of five midwestern tree nut businesses. The core activity of all of these businesses is to process a raw product—nuts in the shell—into a ready-to-eat food. The businesses in this study are based in Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa, and the nuts they process include Chinese and hybrid chestnuts, black walnuts and pecans. Business structures include two cooperatives, a family corporation and two limited liability companies (LLCs).