About Idaho Panhandle Chestnuts

Chris Howell owner of Idaho Panhandle Chestnuts


Let me introduce myself. Since one of the owners creates this web content, I may as well speak candidly and in first person.

I was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, just as my children had been.

I own two ten-acre farms in north Idaho. They have been farmed for me while I earned wealth in Alaska as a self-made rags-to-riches software engineer focusing on aerospace safety management.

My mother and son live on and manage the separate farms that currently generate no income. We've gladly allowed local farmers to grow hay or wheat on the land to keep the land "working" and not become "overgrown."

I have a successful Web marketing business headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska.

I have a global aerospace safety software company.

I lead a team of professional software engineers that develops expert business applications. We have a strong IT background across many business segments.

I grew up on a farm. I know the earth.

I was a logger for ten years, felling timber. I can manage trees, use chainsaws and equipment. I have also planted and managed trees at the

  • U.S. Forest Service; 
  • State of Idaho; and a
  • North Idaho tree nursery.

I plan to grow and sell LOTS of chestnuts online.

The name of the business is Idaho Panhandle Chestnuts, LLC.

Chestnut plant

In order to sell chestnuts, I need tractors and equipment to prepare the fields for the orchard. We bought an excavator in December 2021, and will purchase additional equipment in the coming months, including:

  1. Dump truck to haul nursery materials (mulch, sand, gravel, rock);
  2. 50 HP Tractor with nursery implements (mower, tiller, sweep broom, pallet forks);
  3. 25 HP Tractor with backhoe for digging irrigation lines and light work
  4. Farm Utility Vehicle (4-wheeler with hauling bed);
  5. Forestry Bucket Truck to prune trees as they grow;
  6. Chipper to chip dead trees and branches as we thin the orchard.

We will be planting intensively, following the more moderate Japanese intensive growing method vs the Chinese model. Chestnut trees will be planted 7.5' apart separated by rows 15' apart.

Seedlings will be planted in 6' grow tubes that allow the seedling to have 6' of shelter from deer, elk and the elements. This also means that the first limbs appear 6' above the ground, thereby facilitating automated orchard floor nut harvesting.

Seedling beds will be painstakingly prepped before planting. The process includes digging 4-8' deep with the excavator, amending the soil with perlite and shaping the orchard floor to capture water on the slope near the base of the trees' roots.

Each seedling will enjoy a 3' square landscaping cloth to reduce competition from weeds and orchard grasses. Automated drip irrigation tape will run down both sides of each row.

Chestnut burrs with nuts

Orchards will be irrigated to maximize harvest and overseeded with white clover to feed marauding deer and elk. The appropriate business license and water rights have been filed for both farms, which is required when irrigating more than 1/2 acre.

As the trees' drip linestouch, trees are quickly and mercilessly thinned to promote the orchard. Eventually, the trees will be thinned to 30' to 40' apart.

Nut harvest starts in years 4-7. Fresh chestnut online sales will be facilitated by our Alaska-based Web-marketing team. We will seek other farmers to plant chestnuts in the Panhandle and expect to create an Idaho Chestnut Cooperative.

In the meantime, we will grow chestnut seedlings and trees at the Sandpoint farm and sell and ship from Sandpoint. Sandpoint, Idaho will support our nut processing plant and seedling and tree sales.

Our orchards will need thousands of more seedlings in the coming years. Therefore, it makes sense to have a "paying nursery" where we can sell chestnut seedlings and small tress using our online sales team in Alaska.

When orchard equipment is not being used for Panhandle Chestnuts' activities, it will be contracted out to Panhandle Contracting, LLC.

This is a ten year project before profits. Luckily, our other businesses can support the orchard during that time.