I am researching areas to start an orchard. However, the one question I can’t find an answer to, is “if my orchard won’t be mature enough to produce fruit (apples) for up to two years… thus bringing in some capitol, how do new orchards sustain the bills in the meantime?
You could intercrop with annuals
A lot of orchards/farms try to diversify with annuals, whether that’s cut flowers or pumpkins with hayrides. Many people keep their day jobs until both the workload and the revenue demand they either split their time or abandon the original career.
They start out here growing tomatoes the first few years.
That’s pretty easy they start out with lots of capitol. The orchard business is very capitol intensive. I once worked with some rich, or at least well off, farmers that spent in excess of $30K per acre on apple orchards. They tried to grow them like they did corn, high density and heavy fertilization. Only they used a fire blight susceptible rootstock and varieties. The FB burnt up a million plus in capitol before they produced any fruit.
Don’t plant pecans. They break even is 10 yrs or longer if things go right. Apples are probably 4-6 yrs to get your money back at best. You better have that all figured out ahead of time.
Ouch! You’d think there would be some research in a million dollar business plan!
They had a consultant with experience in WA state. I came in after the FB hit but there was no stopping it. At that point I’d grown apples in the area for 25 yrs with no FB. They lost half their trees in a yr. Never did a commercial harvested before plowing them under.
That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, if it could eventually get me to a full sized apple orchard in the future. However, when scoping out land, ideally on a hill, these plots aren’t usually sold in 10-20 (±) acres. They are larger. So if I did use pumpkins or other annuals in the meantime, and wanted to expand into a GIANT orchard, would transplanting from small average to a larger plot elsewhere be the way to go?
Yes, in most cases your going to need capital to get started. If you do a tall spindle planting and it goes well you will have a small crop in the 2nd year. But a tall spindle planting takes more money up front. I think you looking at about $20,000 an acre minimum to plant one. Although if you set up your own nursery and produce you own trees you do it for less money but more work.
There is quite a bit of literature on the payback periods for orchards you’re probably looking at 5-15 years depending on the system. I would suggest you plant a test plot instead to get your feet wet maybe in combination with a small nursery if you want to graft your own trees. With a test plot you can find out what cultivars, rootstocks and training systems are going to work for you before risking a bunch of money on an orchard. If your serious about an orchard there are some books I can recommend as well as orchard literature. Being an orchardist isn’t easy and I would suggest you do as much research up front as you can. You might also consider working for an orchard a couple years to gain experience… in New York state that would probably be possible.
In addition, you might want to contact Blueberrythrill one of the forum members. He started a small trellis orchard and I am sure he would have some good advice too.
Being as you are in NY you best have a really good grasp of what you are willing to pay. Im also in NY and acreage ranges depending on where you are. Around me small parcels can be had for a few thousand an acre, with larger parcels under 2 grand per acre.
Mind you good, tillable land doesnt come up for sale often, and when it does its expensive.
If I were to set up a commercial orchard, id look to plant in the zone 6 area near lake Ontario. Its very fertile, stays a few degrees warmer in the winter, due to the lake not freezing, and there already are acres ready to be planted up there. Probably between I90 and NY 104 would be your best bet to buy.
If you don’t inherit land and/or money…make sure at least one of you has a “real” job. Our orchard is more of a “retirement income” proposition with a heavy dose of labor of love. I LOVE raising trees & plants. It’s good for the soul.
As far as what to grow…obviously climate/geography will determine your list of possibilities. After that determination…what does your local market want? Berries are quick turnaround but can be labor intensive in various ways. Blueberries are a pretty good bet overall. If you grow peaches…they will produce after 3 or 4 seasons…and they will always sell well. Apples are tough to manage and are a longterm investment of resources and time.