Black Walnuts

By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, Ag Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University.

Updated July 2015 by Christina Romero, AgMRC, California Polytechnic University, Pomona


The black walnut tree, also known as the American walnut, is native to North America. The Northern California black walnut is primarily used as the rootstock for English walnut cultivars.

U.S. tree nut production since 2005 generated, on average, nearly $4 billion in annual farm cash receipts, with almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans accounting for most of the sales.

California orchards produce almost 90 percent of U.S. tree nuts acres in the United States, with some acreage in Oregon. Oregon has experienced a 47 percent acreage loss since 2002. While total acres have increased, the overall number of farms has declined with losses in every state but California.

California production has remained stable since 2007, with 5,712 farms. (Fruit and Tree Nut Report, NASS, 2015)  There are no USDA statistics are kept on black walnut production.

Value Added Options

Large areas of crop land in the Midwest are suited to the production of black walnut (Noweg and Kurtz 1985). Lands no longer suitable for profitable corn or soybean production often provide adequate sites for black walnut orchards.

Added markets may be but not limited to farmers markets, specialty grocery stores, wholesale purveyors, pre-packaged food processors, vegetarian food processors, ethnic markets, and restaurant food purveyors.

Harvesting Mechanization – Support Industry

The technology for the cultivation and mechanical harvesting of this crop currently exists because techniques and equipment can be easily adapted from the English walnut industry.  A well-developed market and marketing system based on seedling black walnuts is already in place and could rapidly change to accommodate thin shelled, high quality cultivars.

Major processors in the industry are Hammons Products Company and Heartland Nuts 'N More.  Expansion of processing facilities and co-ops in high producing regions would add value to this crop.


There are currently no available online enterprise budgets specifically for black walnuts; however, the requirements to establish and produce black walnuts are very comparable to those of English walnuts.

Helpful enterprise budgets for black walnuts:


Black Walnut, Virginia Tech, 2001 - This online document provides a review of the harvesting, processing, marketing and usage of black walnuts.
Walnuts: Second Biggest Nut Crop Produced in the United States, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, Economic Research Service, USDA, 2005.
Center for Agroforestry, University of Missouri - This center is a national leader in the development of specialty crops for alternative income sources on family farms, including black walnut.
Hammons Products Company, Stockton, Missouri, 1-888-429-6887 - This company buys hulled black walnuts and has 214 buying stations in 11 states throughout the Midwest. In 2014, the company processed 22 million pounds of black walnuts, down from 30 million pounds in 2013.
Heartland Nuts 'N More, Valparaiso, Nebraska - This cooperative of 44 native black walnut and pecan growers from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Founded in late 2003, the co-op purchases products from its members, then processes and bags the nuts to be sold nationwide.
Introduction to Walnuts, Pecans and Other Nut Crops, Specialty Crops Profile, Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Walnut Council - This association helps build markets for wood products and nut crops.
Walnut Index, University of California-Davis - This site provides links to other walnut resources.

Links checked July 2015