2018 peach report


#81

Selling peaches sounds like a nightmare to me. Not only is the fruit perishable and difficult to pick at the right stage, but you’ve got all these customer concerns. I also expect your profit margins are pretty slim.

I’m selling fig plants on eBay via auctions. The beauty of that is it’s all organized from listing thru shipping. I do get some customer questions but not that many and 95% are fun. Private sales are much more time, much more hand holding, and usually about half the selling price. I can handle 30 plants a week on eBay. No way I’d try that many plants on private sales. I’d be constantly confused and dazed.


#82

I expect selling trees is a lot easier than selling perishable fruit like peaches.

A local heritage apple tree nursery close to me sells a ton of trees, some in person over just a few Saturdays and lots more through the mail. I have no doubt that he makes a lot more money with less effort selling trees compared with selling fruit.

Peaches can be profitable, but you need to sell a lot over a short period of time to make the economics work. If you can sell $2K from an acre of trees in 5 hours on a Saturday and half that amount on Wednesday, the money side works fine. PYO peaches sold for the same price as pre-picked peaches works well if you can tolerate the waste. Picking peaches ahead of the PYO customers works a little better and reduces some of the waste. Last year we sold pre-picked in half peck bags and PYO peaches mostly in 1/2 bushels.

It’s a fun hobby but I could not support myself doing it.


#83

What is a private sale? Brady


#84

That’s my term for a sale that occurs via email or by PM on one of the forums. I don’t have a website like some of the fig sellers do. So it’s eBay or someone that hits me up privately.


#85

Yep. If my wife didn’t work, we could never support ourselves solely from the orchard. By the time one figures all the costs, it really pays like a part time job (with no benefits). Part of the issue with our orchard is that we are just too small to take advantage of scale production. Plus, we are too small to take advantage of cheap migrant labor (which I wouldn’t want to do anyway).

Next year we are planning to raise prices for the first time in about a decade since I started selling fruit. I had hoped we could continue to keep prices level and just continue to produce more to cover costs. But that’s not working for me. The physical toll is too much. Even lugging crates of peaches and packing boxes for customers is becoming too taxing. I only sold 300 lbs. yesterday and could barely get to the farm to sell 100 lbs. today. The end of the season can’t come too soon for me.


#86

I would think about selling wholesale. I know I have and many others about specialty sales.
One example is a woman who grows about 5000 tomato plants and sells to high end restaurants, Sun dried tomatoes all by mail. All grown from heirlooms. No overhead for seeds, just save enough fr the next crop. She is based in Mexico, originally from the states. I probably will sell figs to local Italian markets in the future. In my area it’s hard to get fresh figs that are decent. Mine are better than anything sold. I have been giving a lot away for feedback, and all want more.


#87

From everything I’ve heard wholesale means lower prices. If retail isn’t higher than wholesale you need to raise your prices.


#88

Farmer’s markets maybe, more work for Olpea but people pay a premium in some at those. My grandfather’s brother sold blue/green eggs in some farmer’s market after he “retired” from dairy farming but still lived on the farm while younger relatives did all the hard work. The chickens ate leftover (spilled) grain from the farm’s silage, leftover bread from a bread delivery man he knew, milk from the cows, and whatever they could forage. They were kept in an un-used part of a pig barn. The eggs were sold as “organic” and “cage free”. I’m not sure how much money he made, since this farmer’s market couldn’t have been THAT big, but it kept him busy. For it to work at all he’d need to get a spot at a farmer’s market that draws a big, somewhat affluent crowd.


#89

What I understand about farmers’ markets is it mainly enriches the market-runners who charge the sellers for everything


#90

Yes, but just about every issue brought up in the last few posts would not be an issue.
No store front to man, no displays, signs, tables, cash on hand, time is money. No dealing with special orders or holding peaches, calling people, posting on facebook etc. At least a consideration for seconds.


#91

The trick is to determine the price that assures selling just the amount you have. Too much demand helps a business that studiously lowers the demand by charging more to increase profit.

You should do it gradually- if you have less fruit than you can sell it seems like a no brainer. Of course, you are just too nice to charge your good old customers more money.

I make the same mistake in my business- people like us never get rich.


#92

Yep. Its called price elasticity of demand.

Can you sell the same quantity of goods at a higher price and make more money? If so its inelastic.

My experience is that demand is pretty inelastic when selling quality produce directly from the farm which makes it easy to raise prices without effecting demand. At a farmer’s market its more elastic because many farmers are selling the same products so its easier for customers to compare price and quality and more difficult for the farmer to raise prices.

Me too! My peach season ended a few weeks ago and I’m worn out. Picking and packing tons of peaches is very physically demanding - much harder than I expected and a lot less fun than I expected.


#93

That’s why auctions work. Let the market set the price. But yes I’m like you and find it hard to set prices myself.


#94

All that said, I love my business and the life it provides me. I think Olpea has a tougher row to hoe. There are advantages to living in an epicenter of wealth. Property taxes and other living expenses are high but access to so many wealthy people more than makes up for it.


#95

Having been in wholesale and retail most of my life perhaps I can shed a bit of light on your fruit business.

  1. You must take orders in advance
  2. Your packaging must be good for shipping and for going to market by truck.
  3. Volume , it is better to have a few more than too little. If you run short, you are unreliable
  4. Figure our your margins.
  5. You ate too small a vendor to guarantee crops.
  6. Should be first, make a business plan.
  7. Reorders same season?
  8. Labor and cost of goods
  9. Kitchen registered and approved by the health department

Just a few things to think about. Sorry Fruitnut this was meant for Drew.


#96

The orchards that seem to be successful in Virginia are diversified. They may sell retail fruit and wholesale fruit, they produce something else with there fruit - cider, alcohol and they may have restaurants on premise, some sell bare root trees and many do festivals. Just selling retail fruit could be pretty rough. For some reason I think Olpea mentioned $2 a lbs for his peaches, which is about a third of what the local orchards get here in Virginia. If I could buy fresh peaches for $2 a lbs I would never have planted a peach tree. If I can ever get all of the peach trees I planted to produce (a very big if) I am going to making peach wine - alcohol is big business in Virginia now.


#97

I have worked and even owed restaurants in the past. I also worked in the medical field as a Med Tech, and for MSU as a laboratory Technion for the Anatomy Department, Also the music field as a researcher, Even worked for the Post Office. I also sold mutual funds for a bit. Getting into the financial industry was a great move for me, and I’m reaping the benefits now. I like to try new things from time to time, but just about done as I’m getting too old!
I have no intention of doing anything other than to have fun. I’m not in need of an income from my hobby. I just like to be efficient, and it would be nice to get the hobby to pay for itself.
Anyway I have been asking some of my old friends and chefs in the industry if they would be interested in various products, and many would be. I’m not ready yet to sell, checking the demand for what I could produce. I have not decided to go forward with it. I have too many other obligations going on right now. I barely kept the garden watered this year.
I’m retired and not moving any faster.
I have found wholesale a lot less demanding and was just pointing out that observation.
Dealing with the general public is never fun, so I have little interest in that, been there, done that. Although wholesale can be exactly the same thing, Just on a more manageable scale. I can stop supplying idiots, but could never stop them from coming into my restaurant.


#98

Drew,
I’ve owned two restaurants myself and hear you loud and clear.
The worst part is when the help doesn’t show up.


#99

The whole thing that makes small farms competitive these days is direct marketing- otherwise corporate and other huge farms can out compete small farms in almost every contest. Olpea would lose money on his peaches at wholesale pricing and he’d have to pick them green and hard so there’d be adequate shelf life and time to distribute.


#100

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.

https://civileats.com/2018/09/03/life-as-a-farmworker-in-yumas-lettuce-fields/

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.