Growing walnuts sustainably

A flock on sheep in the foreground, rows of walnut trees in the background.

We often talk about Coaldale Walnuts being ‘sustainable’ … but what does that really mean? If you’re interested in reducing your environmental footprint as a consumer, you might be interested to know how we’re striving to reduce our environmental impact as a business. 

We’re minimising non-organic inputs

On the farm, we have moved away from salt-based inorganic fertilisers, and now only use fertilisers from natural sources such as kelp, fish oil, humate, compost tea, molasses and sheep manure. We use sheep to eat grass and weeds in the orchard laneways and under the trees. Some weeds like thistles are manually cut. We have begun using organic herbicide instead of the glyphosate we previously used.

We are reducing our carbon footprint

Our sheep ‘mow’ the orchard for us, so we can cut down on machine mowing, and reduce use of fossil fuels. All branches pruned from the orchard are chipped and used as mulch for the trees, along with walnuts shells from our cracking plant. All activity is done on-site, meaning we don’t use fossil fuels transporting our nuts for processing. We have also reduced inorganic nitrogen input by switching to organic inputs (a 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emission audit on our farm showed this to be a whopping 60% of our carbon footprint, so improving this was a priority for us). We plan to audit our progress after harvest in 2021.

We’re helping soil biological activity and carbon sequestration

Our natural fertilisers enhance soil biota, as do the several tonnes of walnut shells and approximately 35 cubic metres of tree prunings which are now returned to the orchard, adding organic matter to the soil. We regularly test the soil to measure changes in soil carbon levels, biological activity as well as nutrient availability.  Soil carbon is starting to show signs of improvement but this takes a long time.

We use water as efficiently as possible

We use soil moisture monitors to provide real time measures of moisture, so we’re not guessing how much water to put on our trees: we only irrigate when we know they need it. No ‘just in case’ irrigation for us! We use off-peak electricity by irrigating mainly at night: this is also more water efficient as the cooler temperatures help to reduce evaporation. 

We are reducing plastic packaging 

Yes, we still sell walnut kernel in plastic zip-lock packaging: this has proven difficult to avoid so far as the high oil content in walnuts means if they’re not stored properly they can start to deteriorate after several months, which affects the flavour. Our in-shell walnuts are sold in net bags (reduced plastic), and pickled walnuts are in infinitely recyclable glass jars. Most importantly, we are seeking opportunities for selling our nuts ‘naked’ – with no packaging at all! We sell kernel and in-shell walnuts in bulk at our Farm Gate Market stall in Hobart, so customers can bring their own container, or use one of our paper bags (which can then be composted). We also sell nuts in bulk to Eumarrah, where customers can buy them in their own containers. 

So … we’re not all the way there yet but we’re improving all the time.  We know we need to be responsible as a business and as global citizens, so we’re proud to be doing our bit and we’ll keep working at it.

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