Yes. I hired a teen to pick peaches for me this summer. He’s told me “picking peaches is pretty monotonous”. My son also has helped me pick peaches every summer since we started. Every year he can’t wait for school (now college) to start, lol.
I’ll admit it can be boring picking peaches for hours on end, but for me it’s no more boring than pruning for hours on end, or thinning for hours on end, just more physically demanding to pick. But for a teen, it has to seem unbelievably boring. Of course Rick, I’m not telling you anything new.
Yes, that’s what I’ve charged since I started selling my first peaches in 2009. $1.50 per pound for tomatoes. $2.50 for blackberries. All prices have tax included. It’s time to move up in price some. Most of the time my prices have been cheaper than grocery stores, so I’ve been too cheap. Even some customers have told me I’m too cheap. I plan to go to $2.50 per lb. going forward for peaches. And move up in prices in tomatoes and blackberries too.
Agriculture prices generally don’t move up much. Farmers just make more money by producing more, so I’ve tried to hold to that model. The problem with fruit though is that it’s a lot more labor intensive than other agriculture crops, so adding production isn’t quite as simple as simply planting more. The extra labor required for the extra production makes it difficult to keep prices level by producing more. I think the dynamics change in situations where large farms use cheap migrant labor.
I read an interesting article the other day about lettuce farming in AZ. I’m sure there is little difference in how things work for large fruit farms. In fact, I’ve talked with one large wholesale peach grower about his migrant labor and it is basically the same. They push those workers super hard for fairly low pay, imo.
I can’t imagine trying to compete with huge farms on a wholesale level. It’s actually getting a little easier for me to direct market, except for the part about my bones getting older and less resilient to the abuse of bending, lifting, and crawling around under trees.
This year we decided not to do any farmer’s markets, which made things a lot easier. I was a bit worried we might not be able to sell everything we produced, but that fear was unfounded. Selling has never been easier this summer. I would leave a message on my phone what time the orchard opened and then go down and open the gate at that time. There would be always be cars waiting on the road. Then there were customers steady enough I’d rarely get a chance to sit down, much less eat any lunch. I’d do this till we sold out for the day, at which time I’d post a message on my phone that we are sold out and close the gates.
Selling didn’t used to be that easy. In the past I’ve spent many long lonely hours trying to get rid of the day’s fruit, but I think the difference is Facebook and more word of mouth. It seems a bit strange, but people give peaches to other people as gifts, and then those people become customers. It’s not like our peaches are any better than anyone else’s tree ripened peaches, just that there aren’t very many tree ripened peaches available (commercially speaking) in the Midwest.
A few times restaurants have been mentioned. Here is my take on selling to restaurants. I have a couple restaurants that I’ve sold to for several years, so I appreciate them. But selling to restaurants can be dicey. As Mrs. G mentioned, restaurants generally need a steady supply, which can sometimes be difficult as a direct marketer. There are naturally gaps in production, which restaurants don’t like.
Additionally, for some reason a lot of restaurants think they are really big customers and deserve a big break in price. In reality most only need at most a bushel a week, which is nothing. But they want a big price break and even want you to deliver! Like I say, the couple restaurants I sell to are good customers. But they pay the same price as anyone else, and they come pick up their fruit like everyone else.
Fruit growing is a physically demanding business, and the pay could be better, but I like what I’m doing. I like producing food for people.