Before you buy land - Growing Fruit

Wanted to discuss purchasing land for fruit growing. The first things I did prior to purchasing land is check zone hardiness, water quality, average yearly rainfall, soil fertility, types of storms to name a few things. I’ve noticed a lot of people that move here to Kansas move based on job without knowing the statistics. Cost of living is a major factor. Lets assume I looked at the following rainfall totals and determined Chanute had 44.5 inches of rainfall by using this website http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Kansas/average-yearly-precipitation.php and I wanted to find a home and small amount of land in a good orchard location with the highest yearly rainfall totals. Keep in mind this is just an example.


Eastern Kansas
Average yearly precipitation
Days - Place - Inches - Millimeters
– Chanute 44.5 1130
95 Fort Scott 45.0 1144
93 Independence 45.1 1144
77 John Redmond Lake 37.5 953
91 Kansas City 39.1 992
96 Lawrence 39.9 1013
92 Leavenworth 42.9 1090
98 Olathe 41.9 1063
99 Perry Lake 39.2 995
96 Pomona Lake 39.5 1003
100 Topeka 36.5 926

Central Kansas
Annual averages for rainfall plus snowfall
90 Concordia 27.9 708
72 Great Bend 26.7 677
85 Hutchinson 30.6 777
89 Lovewell Reservoir Dam 27.3 693
102 Manhattan 35.6 905
81 Marion Lake 34.3 872
86 Milford Lake 32.9 837
88 Salina 31.5 800
– Tallgrass Prairie Preserve 35.7 907
87 Tuttle Creek Lake 33.0 837
88 Wichita 32.6 829
76 Wilson Lake 26.0 661

Western Kansas
Average amount of rain and snow a year
73 Colby 20.7 525
77 Dodge City 21.6 549
59 Elkhart 18.3 465
70 Garden City 19.2 486
81 Goodland 19.7 499
79 Keith Sebelius Reservoir 25.8 656
– Kirwin Reservoir Dam 25.5 648
58 Liberal 20.3 514
64 Webster Reservoir Dam 24.4 620
I need to find out more about the county first which is Wilson as an example

Then I need to find out the exact location of wilson which I can now see is in the SE portion of the state
http://www.civics.ks.gov/kansas/counties/introduction.html
My next step would be finding out what soil was in what location which I would do with a map like this
http://www.xdc.arm.gov/data_viewers/sgp_surfchar/Kansassoil_new.html
Once I determine the soil type silt loam which is good for fruit growing I need to look for value of land (lets say we are looking for 5-20 acres and we need a home.
My last step would be to find a home in a water pocket like this one (note water well, nice pond) http://www.landandfarm.com/property/10_5_Acres_in_Wilson_County_Kansas-3220477/
This is all making the assumption your not concerned about a specific type of work in the area and other factors that can come in to play.
Lastly I check zone hardiness and determine it’s a warmer part of Kansas zone 6b
http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#
The last step if I was actually looking at this property was to physically look it over and check out the lay out of the land. Prior to that I would look at satellite imagery Google Maps Already from the satellite imagery I can see the land is rich from the tall trees, hay bails, farmed fields etc.
I’m glad to see no hazardous mining in the area such as lead Wilson County, KS mining, mines, mine owners and mine statistics
There have been 97 tornadoes since 1950 http://www.homefacts.com/tornadoes/Kansas/Wilson-County/Fredonia.html. The severity of the tornadoes http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/tornado/Kansas/Wilson
Note the land picked out has a “in-ground storm shelter”. My next step would be to send an email to ensure it’s not a flood plain http://www.neoshocountyks.org/Floodplain%20Page.asp

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I have been selling fruit trees for the past few years and meet alot of people that have purchased acreages with vague plans for wildlife plantings or a hobby farm. They just want to see what they can grow with the land they have. It is very rare to see anyone purchise land to specifically to farm. The cost of good farmland in or area makes buying land to farm a poor ROI. Research and soil test are done after they relocate.

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You would need a plan. In this example it costs $57,000 for the property which is 10.5 acres. Obviously a person needs short term plans since fruit such as pears take 7 years before they begin to produce a significant crop. In the meantime herbs, garlic , vegetables etc. are all high profit and your ROI is much faster. Lets use garlic as one example although you would likely use every trick you knew to make money. Garlic as an example generates a high profit per acre in a relatively short time with a lot of hard work How to Make $40,000 Growing Garlic – Profitable Plants

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An important consideration is also what crops can you SELL for a good price. Most folks don’t focus enough on the sales side of the equation.

For example, in Virginia apple country apples often sell for very low prices. Even if you were able to purchase the land at a fair price and grow a quality crop, the low price could be a big problem.

The proximity of a busy farmer’s market with good prices might be more important than the price of the farm land if you intend to direct market the crop.

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blueberrythrill,
Excellent points! When the crop is garlic I think most people do internet sales. Apples are a big deal to try and move because they are very bulky and unlike garlic don’t sell for $10-$15 per pound. The hardest thing about a business is selling what people want to buy because it’s frequently not what we want to grow. I have a problem with planting what I want so I can tell you first hand it’s a bad habit to have. My seedling apple project is not profitable but something I like to do. If money was my main objective the seedling apple project would be top worked with honey crisp because honey crisp are in high demand. By the way I checked on flooding due to yearly rainfall and river location and found an interesting blog My Place...Technology / Family / Life: 2007 Chanute, KS Flood ( More Pictures). I would definitely check on individual properties in that area very closely and look for higher elevation. Remember I said they average 1 tornado per year. The cost of land is cheap there but there are trade offs. Next thing I would do is find out how close the property is to a river , yield of water per minute from the well etc. so I would use this site next KGS--Guidebook 5--Appendices.

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Nice write-up on the research process! I looked at the pics and that brick outbuilding is scary and could collapse at a cough- it looks like the builder was either drunk or had my brick-laying skills (maybe both). But it is incredible to find so much land for $57K- I might even be able to convince my wife, if there was something like that around here. But the cheapest I saw in town was 600K for a quarter acre. If I was willing to drive half an hour or a bit more, maybe 100K for an acre.

You can check yourself to see if it is in a flood plain:
https://msc.fema.gov/portal

That link lets you search for FEMAs maps, based on the address. It’s a step I always try to take before even looking at a new property.

Here’s an example of one I was looking at recently, where the property (the +) was just outside a flood zone.

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Incredibly useful information Bob I did not know that existed! The price of land where you are located is really expensive! Maybe you should come to Kansas! In this case the well water could at least be used to water the garden, for showers and watering the fruit trees. It looked like the well produces under 100 gallons a minute. If I’m reading the map correctly it is in a major flood plain so I’m surprised a house is there FEMA Flood Map Service Center | Search By Address . The address I plugged in was 22256 1900 Rd, Chanute, KS 66720


I zoomed out on the google maps to see what looks like rivers on each side of the location

Clark, just to clarify, I think you are looking at a map of what they have mapped and what they don’t (like national forests, etc). To actually get to the real data, you want to click “Save map” then open the zip and view it.

They sure do make them harder to use where you live- not only do they cover a huge amount of area, but they don’t label 90% of the roads. The only way for me to find the property was to use Google maps and look for landmarks. Turns out that there is a distinctive cross-road a bit to the West of the property. And I was able to get to the right area by following the railroad and counting roads after crossing Rt 75.

Edit- After looking at your pic again, I think another helpful strategy is to zoom out in the web-view, just enough to see the map borders. That should give you a rough idea where on the map the property is- at least a place to start looking.

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Yes I brought up some other maps of Kansas to help me see the location clearly http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Publications/pic20/fig01.jpg


http://www.networkkansas.com/entrepreneurs/events/regional-calendars

Then I zoomed all the way out FEMA Flood Map Service Center | Search By Address
Once I confirmed the county (Wilson) is three sections in from the Missouri border I used the fema map FEMA Flood Map Service Center | Search By Address and downloaded it

You can see on this map below we are looking at the border of Wilson and Neosha county

This is a google map of the entire area and you can see it’s close to the border of Oklahoma and Missouri

It looks like the property is in the middle of a couple of medium sized rivers. Is the flood plain on the FEMA map just the location immediately on the borders of the rivers? I did a little more internet searching and the river in question is the verdigris river.

I then took a different approach and searched for verdigris river wilson county kansas and looked for 1900 road. Take a look on this map Bridgehunter.com | Verdigris River-Ness Rd. Bridge how close the verdigris gets to the property

Then I discovered this article http://kansastag.gov/press_release_detail.asp?PRid=311 posted on 7/1/2007
which says "In Wilson County, a county hit very hard by flooding, the city of Neodesha is reportedly surrounded by water with boat and air as the only access into the city. An evacuation center has been set up at the school. The water plant was shut down due to flooding, leading to a boil water order for the residents of Neodesha. (The boil water order was issued by the city, which considers the water contaminated). Partial power outages are reported in the Neodesha area where a substation is impacted by flooding. The sewer plant has also been affected by flood waters and is reportedly backing up. Both Fredonia and Altoona are also without water due to flooding of the water plants there.
"

The flood plains would be the shaded parts. I’m not sure the exact bounds of the property- Google puts it right where I put the “+” in my last post. If it is on the Eastern part of the road, then it may contain some flood plains.

Regardless of whether it is technically in the flood plains, the article would make me a bit nervous.

Two other things to consider- it looks like the property is already “pending”, so unless that is you, someone may already be buying it. Also, the schools in the area get a low score, so that is another data point to consider.

One other avenue to more exactly locate the property is to check the county land and appraisal records. Sometimes Zillow has a good link to the public data, which may help in locating it. For instance, if I bring up this property and click “See Data Sources”:

No Bob I’m definitely not buying it. I’m just using it as an example to let people know the process I use when property shopping. I make sure I keep in practice. It would be very hard to lose money on that property but the flooding is something I can do without.

Clark,

My wife has several relatives in SE KS. It’s interesting you mention Chanute. I was just through there a little over a week ago to look at one of my wife’s relative’s place.

He wants to start a peach grove there and wanted me to come look at the feasibility of his property.

His place was on the other side of Chanute (about 10 miles due east of the address you mention). I would say the soil was pretty poor at his place, but still OK as long as someone would be willing to add some fertilizer amendments and get the peach trees up out of the soil. Heavy clay type soil. Again wasn’t the best, but fine to grow fruit if willing to fertilize. The air drainage didn’t look super.

I was concerned about local markets, but my wife’s relative felt there was enough local markets around there to make it work. Hardly anyone grows fruit around there, but there is one peach truck which comes up from Oklahoma some during the summer (apparently the guy sells out in all the towns around there).

I’m familiar with the Verdigris (pronounced ver-di-gree) river. My wife has some relatives who live right on it south of Coffeyville KS. It does flood some, but not as bad as you might think. The flood you mention in 2007 was a 100 year flood I believe. At that time the river flooded a big portion of Coffeyville which had never been flooded. My wife’s relatives who live along the river had their house flooded to the second level (which had never happened, and the house is like 75 years old). They say the reason the river flooded was because of dam mismanagement, but people tend to want to blame somebody when misfortune happens.

I’m less familiar with the Verdigris river up in Wilson county, but I thought the river was close to Benedict, not necessarily close to the address you typed in? I couldn’t see the river on near the address on your map, but maybe I’m missing it.

Anyway, I think all the maps and resources are very helpful, but as you continue looking, I think there is no substitute for looking at the layout yourself and talking with some locals.

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Thanks Olpea great information. I’m glad to hear someone is going to start up an orchard in that area.

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Olpea,
I was thinking peaches are nice but isn’t canker a big problem in that area with all the wild cherries and water? I just thought of that when I was thinking how wonderful another 10" of annual rain would be. Is there a rootstock that’s resistant yet?

I’ve read many times the suggestion by small orchard owners that the most important consideration is where you plan to sell your fruit. You cannot compete with west coast commercial growers on price and make a living so you need to market high quality or unusual fruit- or both. You need a population nearby that can afford to pay a premium price or the arduous process of making a living selling fruit for too cheap will likely grind you down to surrender in several years.

If you can’t afford property in the more expensive areas where well-to-do worshipers of fine food are adequately populated, rather than buying land in a county with under 20,000 frugal residents, it may be more practical to try to find land some plutocrat owns that they are willing to give you a long term lease on because they like the idea of using it for the purpose you have in mind.

$4 a pound for premium peaches is a good livable wage for a peach grower in my area. Anything less, you might as well try to work behind a desk unless you inherited a $5,000,000 small farm operation.

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More rain has many downside effects on peaches and many other fruits esp stone fruits. Combine that with a heavy clay soil and you have real problems. I’d not plant commercial peaches on clay soil unless it was a well drained clay and there aren’t many of those.

People have tried growing peaches and the like in most areas over the yrs. If there are no commercial orchards in an area that alone is a warning sign in my view.

What I know about peaches in TX and OK is they are on the best loamy soils. Even there making money is difficult. Spring freezes take out too many crops.

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Some really really good thoughts by Alan and Fruitnut.

I think access to affluent city markets are a pretty big deal, which was one of my primary concerns when I inspected the site in Chanute. I’m still not convinced there are adequate markets for fresh fruit like peaches, but my wife’s relative is pretty good in the marketing aspect, so I took his word for it. He has been involved in small farming w/ green house tomatoes, so he seems to have some handle on that. He’s kind of the type of guy who could sell bricks to a stone mason.

Fruitnut makes a really good point too. More rain is a bad deal for peaches. Typically there is more rain in KS and MO when you move south and east. Move north and west and there is less rain, but the lower winter temps come into play. You and I get about 40" of rain in our area, which is more than I’d like, but folks further south in KS get about 5 more inches/yr,

I’m not too bothered by clay based soil as long as you can get the peaches in a raised planting. I discussed this extensively with my wife’s relative and he is planning to raise his peach grove up through reshaping the landscape via some heavy equipment.

There were actually a lot of peach orchards in southern KS about 30 years ago (especially around Wichita) but the spring frosts slowly did them in. The relative I’m involved with has been following this for a number of years and feels like the climate has changed enough to make peaches favorable again in that area. I know there is at least one big peach operation in Porter OK who has “weathered” the storms all these years. Not extremely far from the geographic location we are discussing.

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When your first starting out a little land is a lot of money. Here are a couple of locations that would work for someone wanting to get an orchard started on a tight budget
http://www.ownmainerealestate.com/land

http://m.landwatch.com/maine/penobscot-county/land-for-sale/?id=289405183

http://www.nclandandfarms.com/land-for-sale/3-7-acres-of-waterfront-land-for-sale-in-pamlico-county-nc/

Ah yes, Porter peaches. I grew up about half an hour from there in the Tulsa 'burbs. They’ve been around as long as I can remember, so they must be doing something right.

I had my Mom bring us some last year when she came up to visit us. Very tasty, even tho I don’t know what varieties they grow. I’m actually here in OK visiting, so I was wondering if the orchard would be open to just visit, even tho they obviously don’t have any fruit available.

I don’t know much about Kansas, but the Maine property listed in the middle link is very far from anywhere you could reasonably expect to find a large population base of customers with the kind of money and mindset to pay top dollar for local fruit - it’s almost four hours north of the major population centers of the state. And in general interior Maine isn’t in the greatest shape economically; lumbering and the paper industry once drove the economy but has contracted significantly. It’s also very nearly in zone 3, which is going to limit the varieties you can grow. It’s wooded, so you’re going to sink 10’s of thousands into excavator work (and build a house or land at least a camper/singlewide/yurt) before you can even get started, and if it’s anything like mine it will be chock full of rocks (which is fine for trees but hard for anything you want to cultivate).

What does seem to be working in Maine these days is craft-scale fermented beverages - there’s something like 70 microbreweries, a growing number of craft cider operations, and even a few micro-distilleries serving a booming foodie scene. So your best bet might be to find someone with an orchard they want to sell and go the value-added route.

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