a foot with black walnut henna written, "walnuts 4 life" and designs

By: Andrew Van Gorp (Sustain DuPage Founder) 9 November, 2015.


This walnut season Sustain DuPage amped up production almost threefold. Last year’s “Nut Club” harvested about one hundred pounds of walnuts, and this year we were able to harvest about THREE HUNDRED pounds of walnuts. This is largely due to many community members dutifully dropping off walnuts at the Van Gorp homestead.

We at Sustain DuPage are so thankful we could participate in this activity. Coming together in community to achieve anything, (not the least to build resilience in our local food system), is one of the most fulfilling parts of life in the ‘burbs. If you haven’t plugged into seasonal eating yet, (oh boy!) you are wayyyyyyyyyy missing out. The next food harvest will be maple syrup in the spring, so if you missed this walnut season- definitely get your little booty over to one of our local food events this spring!

Now, please enjoy this video we made about driving to Caledonia, WI to pick up a Hocking Valley Corn Sheller from circa 1930 to shuck the walnuts. Make sure you have eleven minutes set aside to watch! 


***Also, for those who are worried about harming squirrels through competition:

1)Most people are currently bagging up black walnuts and sending them to the curb to be composted/landfilled elsewhere. So we are saving them from being wasted.

2) There won’t be any squirrels left if we don’t reconnect humans (specifically young ones) with the cycles of nature and show them the value of trees outside of a monetary frame of mind. If people don’t value fruit/nut bearing trees, there won’t be any more because people think these trees are a nuisance that solely exist to harm their lawn. By getting people excited about self-sustenance we might see a native nut tree renaissance- instead of all these magnolias and foreign whatsits that don’t provide food for humans or other wildlife.

3) California’s drought provides an urgency to return to local sourcing for ALL of our dietary needs, including nuts. (California grows up to 99% of most of the nation’s produce). We need to be relearning these traditional ways of life so we are prepared for climate disruption of our currently unsustainable way of life.

4) By getting people excited about these trees, we might set off a positive feedback loop beyond just the trees. By educating people about what “native” means and “xeriscape” and “organic” and “local” means, people might not just plant a little black walnut tree, they might plant a yard full of prairie plants too! That provides more food for more wildlife!

5) Squirrels, although valuable to our local ecosystem, are not exactly paramount to its sum health.

6) Black Walnuts are healthier than domesticated walnuts, so they also provide greater bang for our buck.

7) This process is very time intensive and will ensure less food waste once people realize how much energy goes into their food.

8) Squirrels eat other foods than walnuts too!

9) These trees are in suburban lots, not from a forest. So we are not encroaching on squirrel habitat (what’s left of it).

10) We had permission to collect the walnuts, so we are connecting with strangers and strengthening community bonds and social trust.

11) We always leave plenty of nuts for wildlife.

12) I find it interesting that people take issue with things like harvesting walnuts from their local area, but then continue to participate in far more environmentally detrimental things in their day-to -day life like wearing plastic fiber based clothing that ends up in our waterways as microfibers, or eating meat that is surely sponsored by the deforestation of rainforests the whole world over, or using natural gas stoves that are powered by fracking, or drinking coffee that was shipped from thousands of miles away, etc. I find myself guilty of the same thing. I hope we can begin to change the way we think about our interaction with our yards as something we are apart from and instead begin to see ourselves as belonging to this landscape. I think one of the largest reasons people feel they can pollute our DuPage groundwater with impunity, is because they don’t drink the DuPage groundwater. People feel as though they have the right to cut down entire stands of old-growth trees to build a house, because they don’t depend on those nuts for survival, etc. Without a dependency on our local environment, we become entitled to consume invisible landscapes from near and far away. To see that squirrels were starving in the winter because we had taken too many walnuts might give people an incentive to plant more walnut trees. (Not that that will happen for a long while). 


 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!


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