October Business Spotlight: Hammons Black Walnuts, The BOLD, WILD Walnut

Black Walnuts (not “walnuts”) grow wild on trees in yards and fields all over the Midwestern U.S. and especially in the Ozarks.  In fact, Missouri has more native Black Walnut trees than any other state, leading to the nuts being declared “Missouri’s official state tree nut.” And the Springfield area is the hub of activity, producing more Black Walnuts than anyplace else in the world!

Very different from common walnuts grown in California, these wild local nuts have a very bold, unique flavor that is popular in many home-baked foods, in ice cream (like Hiland, Braums, Baskin-Robbins and Blue Bell), and with creative chefs.  And the hard nutshell is prized by many industries for its gritty resilience.  So, the Springfield region’s small town of Stockton is known as the “Black Walnut Capital of the World” because this small industry finds its only commercial shelling company right here. 

            Hammons Products began in 1946 when a local grocer, Ralph Hammons, found an opportunity to buy local black walnuts.  Over the years, with a lot of help from trusted employees, he turned the Ozarks ‘wild nut resource into a thriving business. 

Today, Hammons Products is the world’s leading commercial processor of Black Walnuts, selling about 20 million pounds annually.  The company employs 70-75 people plus another 20-30 during the fall.  That’s when thousands of people in Missouri and other Midwest states pick up the wild nuts in yards or fields and sell them at local hulling stations in rural towns.  Folks in Stockton are used to seeing trucks loaded with them coming through town in the fall as the nuts are cleaned, cracked, and processed at the local plant.  This fall nut harvest and its impact upon the area inspired the creation of the community’s annual “Black Walnut Festival,” which has been held in late September for 63 years.

Hammons Products’ leaders and employees feel a strong responsibility to help the local area, having been involved in numerous community activities and organizations for generations.  Dwain Hammons, Ralph’s son, led the business for many years, and Brian Hammons has been the 3rd generation leader since 1997.  Brian describes the company’s purpose today as “Connecting People and Creating Memories with the Natural Goodness of Black Walnuts.”  In addition to leading the business, Brian is this year’s Chairman-Elect for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

After 77 years in business and still family-owned, Hammons Products continues to lead the unique Black Walnut nut industry and chart new paths – right here as part of the vibrant Springfield region. 

Remember, only Black Walnuts are the local BOLD, WILD walnut!