During the week, Tom Jenkins is a financial advisor, helping others invest for their retirement. On weekends, Jenkins sometimes packs a sack lunch and pruning saw and visits what he calls his “Walnut IRA.” His 20 acres of black walnut trees, originally planted in a 12 foot by 12 foot grid and gradually thinned to a wider spacing as the trees grew, will be ready for harvesting about the time Tom plans to retire. With the high price of black walnut logs, he figures his walnut acreage will be enough to make him a millionaire. Better yet, his property taxes for the walnut stand are almost zero, thanks to a special property tax rate to encourage timber production.
According to timber experts, black walnut trees, when planted to maximize tree growth, can grow as much as 3′ to 4′ per year in good soil, reaching a mature height of over 100′ and 30″ to 40″ in diameter, with 16″ diameter saw logs ready to harvest in 30 years.
Black walnut trees are native to the central and eastern U.S, but also do well in other parts of the country, and are grown for both nuts and timber. A walnut orchard can take a few years to come into full production, but then produces up to 6,000 pounds of nuts per acre. Black walnut logs bring premium prices, and have since the 1700s, with single trees bringing up to $20,000. Bruce Thompson, author of “Black Walnut For Profit,” estimates a mature stand of black walnut trees can bring about $100,000 per acre in timber value alone. The fine, straight-grained wood is used for furniture, veneer and gunstocks.
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