FARMING brothers are turning their father’s nut tree growing legacy into a cracking business.
Tom and David Tame are involved in tree growing trials on their 120-acre sheep farm near Shipston and have slowly brought Warwickshire Walnuts and Granary Oils to life.
The farm has a 300-strong herd of Suffolk mule cross sheep that graze the nut orchards through a system called silvopasture – bringing trees, grass and livestock together in a symbiotic relationship all year round, except at lambing in the spring.
Some of the waste product from the nut processing side of the business is also used to bolster the animals’ feed so it is a completely circular system, which is good for the environment and the farm’s carbon footprint.
Tom and David’s late father John, grafted fruit trees at the family’s Burmington farm for 50 years, planting dozens of apple and pear trees and seedling walnut trees.
John never did anything particularly commercial with the crop as his passion was the environment and tree planting, alongside farming, although some of the produce was sold to local villagers.
Now the farm sells 90 per cent of its total walnut crop as dried nuts to local people and much of the rest is sold as oil, some of which goes to a few select London restaurants.
David is managing the operation, harvesting and processing and he said they were keen on gradual growth and sales with an emphasis on their community.
Tom is involved as a partner, with a focus on the orchards but his duties also include mending machinery and doing the books.
The south Warwickshire NFU members now have around 800 tree specimens bursting with dozens of walnut varieties as well as cobnuts, pecans, hickory and others.
Tom said:“If you’re planning to plant a perry pear orchard or a cherry orchard, there’s plenty of people out there who can tell you what to plant and where.
“When it comes to walnuts it is still trial and error – that’s essentially the history of walnut growing in the UK.
“There’s benefits all the way through, a soil benefit, a grass benefit, to the nutrients in the soil and a whole manner of interlocking things.”
The Granary Oils side of the business, run by David and his wife Rachel, offers on-farm, cold pressed rapeseed and walnut oil and hand cream.
David warms the shelled walnuts up to between 50C and 60C to release the oil before putting them through a press and what is left can be ground up and used as walnut flour and any surplus is fed to the sheep to minimise waste.
Harvesting the nuts is largely by hand, although the farm does own a chestnut and walnut vacuum harvester that sees the Tames shake the fruit onto a tarpaulin, roll them into a line and then suck them up.
These are washed and can be sold as a whole nut but many head into the farm’s towering dryer, which is also available to other home-grown nut producers to use.
The kit can dry two tonnes of nuts at a time.
Tom continued that the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’ was their cracking and shelling machine, which he said was ‘the only one of its kind in the land because nobody else had got that far’ in terms of commercial production.