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Sam Small's trees produce big prize at 2006 Farm Show

January 11, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

erinc@herald-mail.com

By day, Sam Small keeps a watchful eye over several trees in a small plot alongside the RE/MAX office in Chambersburg where he works.

When he leaves work, Small, a Chambersburg resident, fends off squirrels, burning leaves and husk maggots from the trees, which this year produced Pennsylvania's grand champion nut at the 2006 Farm Show, which is running this week in Harrisburg, Pa.

He began growing Persian walnuts nearly eight years ago and began harvesting about five years ago. This was the first time he entered the nuts at the Farm Show.

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"I just wanted to see how my (wal)nuts stacked up against everyone's in the state," he said. "This year, I had a particularly good crop, and I thought I would enter."

Small won both Grand Champion nut and Largest of Show for an oversized type of Persian walnut, called coble No. 2.

More than 654 nut kernels, 48 pint jars of pre-cracked nuts and seven nut educational exhibits were entered in the Farm Show, by 26 hobby nut-growers from across the state.

For years, Small has harvested the nuts and given them to his friends and family. They especially enjoyed the coble No. 2 variety because they have a thin shell and a larger kernel.

"It's an oversized nut that has a lot of kernel on the inside and a thin shell," he said. "It's very little work to open, and when they do, there's more kernel. It's certainly worthwhile."

Small only grows Persian walnuts, also known as English walnuts, and said he probably has six varieties that he grows at his home, his office and a third location.

He said he decided to plant the trees in three places to avoid losing all of the trees if one was infected.

One tree might produce half of a bushel of walnuts. When the trees were smaller, Small said they produced only two walnuts.

But as the roots become stronger and the tree becomes larger, it is possible to exceed what he now is producing, Small said.

He is hoping to be able to harvest one full bushel from one tree within the next few years.

"I remember when the tree was 3 years old and I saw the first walnut, and I thought this is actually going to produce walnuts here," Small said.

He does not know if he will enter the competition again next year. Small said he most likely will wait and judge the quality of the harvest. Today, he expected to talk to a friend who would advise him on ways to trim his walnut trees to produce a good harvest next year.

"I will probably enter again next year for the fun of it," Small said.

On Saturday, he expects to be able to collect his award-winning walnuts from the Farm Show. But he doesn't have plans for them, yet.

"They will be very special to me," he said. "Maybe I'll have them at the house here and eventually people will eat them. They will go the way of the rest of the nuts."

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