Business Overview

An orchard may be an extension or addition to an existing farm. It can offer pick-your-own fall family fun or incorporate a cider press and resultant sales of the additional product. It may ship all the fruit wholesale to a food distributor or have a farmer's market on site.

Who is this business right for?

If you have a love of the earth and a love for growing things, you've got the first requirement. You must also be willing to work extensive hours during the growing season and have patience for years when the crops struggle to thrive. A small orchard should only be considered as a sideline business.

What happens during a typical day at an orchard?

If you own and operate an orchard, you may be expected to:

  • Determine which trees are optimal for planting in your region and what products are in high demand
  • Plant new trees in the spring
  • Prune, spray, and fertilize trees according to schedule
  • Be able to determine when the crop is ripe and harvest in a timely manner, reducing loss
  • Check trees on a regular basis for disease or infestation
  • Seek best prices for your crop among distributors
  • Maintain a farm stand during the growing season
  • Plan harvest entertainment options for pick-your-own activities
  • Apply for any grants or assistance available to farms or orchards in your region

What is the target market?

A food distributor for a large supermarket chain will be willing to buy your entire harvest for one price, which guarantees the sale. However, individual customers who pay to pick-your-own from the trees will pay a premium price per pound for the opportunity to explore the rural life for an afternoon. A farm stand can generate income throughout the growing season from your local neighbors.

How does an orchard make money?

Very slowly. Fruit trees require patience and planning before any profit can be generated. Plan to wait at least two years for dwarf variety fruit trees to start bearing fruit and allow up to seven years for larger varieties to mature. You earn a profit by spending as little as possible on the maintenance of your trees and landing a high price when they're ready to sell.

What is the growth potential for an orchard?

Most orchard businesses only consist of a single orchard. You are better off planning ahead when planting a vast orchard, as every hill and valley will affect how well any particular tree will grow. Your property will largely define how high a yield you can expect. Knowledge in tree husbandry, soil biology, and even weather can help you find the right place to plant your orchard and choose the right fruit to earn the highest yield possible.