WHEN chestnut blight wiped out an entire plantation of trees about six years ago, Brian and Jane Casey could have walked away from the industry.
Instead, they pushed on and invested further into the fledgling Australian industry.
The Caseys moved from Melbourne to a 7.9 hectare property at Eurobin in north east Victoria in 1986.
The farm had 20 chestnut trees on it and so began the couple’s passion for chestnuts and involvement in the industry.
“We've been involved with the national association Chestnuts Australia since its inception more than 25 years ago, holding various positions and are both life members,” Ms Casey said.
“All peak industry bodies are the best go-to point for information for both consumers and people wanting to get into the industry and the association is actively involved in local festivals, roasting chestnuts and hosting guest chefs to do chestnut cooking demonstrations.
“We now have a hundred trees – we had 2000 over two properties but lost them in 2010/2011 due to chestnut blight.
“We also lost the second property but replanted that in 2014. Blight was a problem but looks like it's been eradicated. Phytophthora, and internal rots are the two major problems.
“Chestnuts are relatively fuss-free; they can crop without water but prefer some irrigation, general NPK fertiliser and minor pruning and spraying.
“Like anything, if you spend time tending to them they will produce more – at this stage our yield is 100kg.”
The Caseys have planted the mid-season Chiusa Pesio variety an Italian sweet and easy to peel chestnut and are focusing on supplying good quality roasting chestnuts for their mail-order business.
They also sell at a local farmers market an online via their website with a range of value-added products.
“For these products we purchase chestnuts from other local growers. We produce frozen peeled chestnuts for food service (restaurants, etc), also vac-packed pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, sweetened puree and also sell another local grower's chestnut flour,” Ms Casey said.
“Nuts are becoming recognised for their health properties and chestnuts are a part of this phenomenon. Demand has been increasing each year as consumers become more aware of chestnuts and how versatile they are.”