Every year orchards are purchased or planted by people who have no experience in growing apples. For some, an orchard will be a challenge and a source of personal satisfaction and profit. For others, it may be a source of frustration and a bad investment. It’s important to become familiar with the business of producing and selling apples before investing your time, energy, and money. Here are some points you should consider if you are thinking about starting or purchasing an orchard.
If you have had no previous experience in orchard management, consider working for a successful orchardist for at least a year to learn about the operation. If that’s not possible, be certain that a competent manager or qualified consultant can be employed before you decide to purchase an orchard.
Apple production requires a lot of labor. A permanent labor supply for spraying, pruning, and general maintenance must be available. Additional seasonal labor will also be needed for harvesting and packing the fruit. Although every farm system is unique, 10 acres could be considered a minimum size for a commercial apple-growing enterprise. A 10-acre operation is large enough to use equipment efficiently and implement a continuous orchard renovation program, yet small enough that one person can take care of most of the work. Larger orchards can make more efficient use of machinery and equipment, but more hired labor, and thus more management skill, will be required.
Apple growing is an enterprise that requires a great deal of knowledge on the part of the orchard owner or manager. Making a profit growing apples can be done only with intense management, from variety selection through planting, training, controlling pests, thinning fruit, harvesting, handling, and marketing. If you are considering orcharding as a career or a business opportunity, you must be willing to learn about and keep up-to-date with production practices.
Apple growing requires a very substantial capital investment. Many potentially successful orchards have failed simply due to lack of sufficient operating capital. Be sure you have the capital to purchase and operate an orchard before signing any agreement or sale contract. From the year of planting until the year that crop returns equal or exceed annual costs, the apple grower will make a large investment. Dwarf trees may begin bearing a small crop their third year in the ground; these trees will not reach full productivity until the sixth or seventh year after planting.