Growing fruit for wineries & breweries?

It seems wineries and breweries in my area have a shortage of cherries, peaches, and blackberries. They specifically want Kansas grown fruits. I’m currently planning to do a new planting of peaches ( likely reliance). They grow and produce quickly ( typically 3 years). I’m thinking of rooting the branches from my current trees. I don’t think I will have any problems meeting their needs for blackberries Blackberries by the gallons . I’ve got 25 cherries I need to graft next year and I’m deciding what to graft them with. Perhaps I’ll go with montmorency. I’m thinking that I need some Juliet cherries as well. Carmine Jewel might be an incredible sour cherry for wine making Carmine Jewell Cherry Yields increasing with age ! I can’t plant enough sour cherries at this point but the problem is of course canker etc. is very prevalent here. The Pear wines might be a great outlet for my larger crop that should be coming someday Here comes the 2016 apple and Pear harvest! . My property will not grow apples very well so I’m planning to leave the cider market alone at this point I think. Crab apples are something I might be able to work with New Apple Seedling Varieties - #15 by clarkinks. Different apples are something I’m looking into. I’m establishing connections this year while selling some aronia Aronia Harvest. Anyone else out there providing fruit to the brewing industry? How are you marketing your fruit? How are u-pick orchards going? Being a commercial fruit grower takes practice and I’m still working on it! The hardest part is creating a market For what you can actually grow. I’m planning new plantings of autumn olives and wine berries soon! Guess I can always plant wine grapes. Anyone have great suggestions for my orchard? Years like 2017 let me know a commercial pear orchard is likely impossible in this area Pear buds, blossoms, and fruit 2017. As much as I would like to focus on pears it’s a mistake and diversity is key to success. I won’t plant anymore pears st this point.

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I’ve read that elderberries are in high demand for wine and they’re easy to grow in any type of soil. I’ve read that marge , a european cultivar is one of the biggest producers. i have bob gordon and wylewood here that are absolutely loaded with berries right now and are also very popular commercial cultivars. you get some berries in year 2. full production in year 3. in your warmer climate you should have substantial production by year 2. these cultivars were developed in oklahoma so should thrive in your area. very easy to propagate from cuttings. :wink:

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a lot of farmers up here have been growing hops for the micro breweries that have popped up over the last 10yrs. up here. maybe that could also be a option for you?

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Perhaps the shortage will allow you to get a fair price for the cherries, peaches or blackberries from the winery/brewery. Large commercial growers sell lots of lower grade (juice quality) fruit to a processors/wineries on the cheap. I read somewhere that juice quality apples in Virginia sell for about 5 cents per pound (about $2/bushel.

We plan to visit a mid size Virginia orchard who sells lower grade fruit to winery/brewery/distillery in a few weeks and I’m going t get more information. Their Facebook page shows bulk bins of peaches going to the distillery but most is sold through their farm stand.

We sold a few bushels of first grade peaches to a local brewer this year and he paid a retail price with no complaints, but we had a shortage of peaches in my area this year.

I don’t know anything about cherries but in order to make money growing blackberries on a small scale will require a price around $3/pound for blackberries and $1.50/pound or more for peaches on average.

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@blueberrythrill ,
I’m not sure what to charge for sour cherries but I’m getting $3.50 per pound for aronia. I was going to charge more for other fruits.
@moose71,
Ive seen people drop a phone pole in the ground and run a bunch of wires to grow hops.
Great ideas!

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We grow apples commercially and for the last two years most of our second quality goes to hard cider makers. I can’t give you specific advice about cherries or peaches, but there are some general things you might want to consider.

– unless you have a contract, the price of juice fruit varies a lot from year to year. If you base your business plan on $200 per ton and the price goes to $100, it puts a big dent in your income. We are considering having our juice custom pressed next year and selling the juice rather than just the apples, because it seems to be a more stable price for juice and opens up more markets.

– fruit is heavy. You really have to have the right equipment, which includes big tractor, fork lift to tractor forks, bins, big truck for hauling, etc. All that adds up if you don’t already have it.

– it is all about relationships with buyers. If you are only selling to one customer you better have a good relationship and an agreement or contract that covers all the important stuff. After 5 years now in business, there are some people that were too much trouble to deal with and others that have been great. Luckily more of the latter so that all our fruit finds a home.

– diversification is important. We have diversified into figs, quince, pears and citrus. The figs are saving our season right now because the apple price is low and we had a lot of sunburn and other heat damage.

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@clarkinks Curious if you decided to pursue this or not, and if so how it worked out for you.

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I do sell to wineries, breweries, and a juice company. A drought in 2018 destroyed my expansion plans and set me back thousands but that did not disuade me from my plans this year. Im planting a test crop of 10 juliet cherries today to determine what i can do to get a field of them growing. Ive got to learn more about the plants. The prime ark 45 blackberies were a failure. The Reliance peaches have bloomed and have fruitlets on the trees again but no larger planting has been done. Commercially i sell aronia and pear right now until i get better at growing everything else. I continue to test pear varities searching for the best type.

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Hops are easy to grow. I grow them for my home brewery.

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I believe at last count Wisconsin now has 22 wineries. All I hear from those I visit is that some of them grow grapes and others do not but just buy the juice in from the west or east coast.

Many tell me they would LOVE to buy Wisconsin grown Marquette or Frontenac grapes if only they could find a grower who could supply what they need each year.

The other HOT item here is all the local hard cider places sprouting up. The are begging for juice from apples that make good hard cider.
The demand is so great that our U of WI is now doing research on the best varieties for our area and the most cost effective way to grow them (on wire, dwarf or standard, what varieties will grow best here ect).

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I’ve been going down this path for awhile. Having attended numerous courses from local AVA ‘experts’ I have abandoned any thoughts of doing grapes to sell to wineries. When I started going to ‘grape classes’ I was maybe 10% committed to trying. By the fourth class, it was down to 2% when the speaker stated simply, “if you’re hoping to make money with grapes, forget it. Grow them for your home winery and you’ll do great. To sell to wineries, you need to go big or go home.” (It should be noted that the purpose of that course was to get folks to grow local grapes!!!) Grapes produced at a commercial scale will undercut your profit on a few acres of grapes. The culminating statement… “The money is in the bottle, not the grape!” That being said, small local growers are selling their grapes to local wineries, but those I’ve spoken to seem to be engaged in a labor of love, not a career.

Hops, suggested by another poster, are a steep climb. WA and OR produce hops at a ridiculously cheap price point. They have economies of scale (mechanical pickers can run $100,000, planting at $15-20,000 per acre, all before you dry, pack, etc.) At a small scale, you might sell quantities for one-off batches, but without a predictable alpha content, etc, a big brewery worth its salt will shy away from your product.

Meanwhile, I’m on a long path towards opening a cidery. I’m in the process of finishing my planting of an orchard which should conservatively produce juice for 1000 cases of hard cider. I’m sticking with bittersweets/sharps and others that are hard to get from commercial growers. What I produce would be augmented with everyday-varietal juice from the commercial growers for a cider base (McIntosh, northern spy, etc etc) The numbers look promising enough to make the risk of the investment…plus, I’m having fun with it!

As with grapes, I don’t think my orchard would allow me to succeed as a commercial grower, but could provide extra cash from local wineries/cideries as a ‘gentleman farmer.’ That will be my fall back position if the cidery doesn’t happen.

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Congratulations, looks like you have done your research and have a solid plan. Pressing and selling your own hard cider sounds good especially if you can buy some buy some bulk generic cider for cheep and supplement it with your own high end cider apples to produce something exceptional.

The local orchards that produce hard cider in NC and VA are very busy and at $20/bottle the payoff on the equipment may be reasonable. Not sure about the wholesale price of cider apples in your area, but everyday juice quality apples sell for almost nothing. They are the left over low quality apples that fail to make any grade standards and are a way for the orchards to recover their picking and grading cost but not much more.The combination of some bittersweet/sharps with low cost bulk cider may be the ticket.

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“The money’s in the bottle” couldn’t be more true. Run of the mill juice can be had for less than $3 a gallon. It seems the big guys are all putting orchards under contract for cider varieties, with only small quantities available outside that. I was offered some cider apples for $0.75-1 per pound. Pressed, that would bring me in at $13-15ish / gallon for juice alone depending on yield.

For now, at my small and experimental stage, I’ve been doing pretty good with foraged apples, either feral or in abandoned orchards.

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I’m interested in what cider varieties you’re having success with in your 4b climate.

I wish I had something to share on that front. I’m starting from scratch and have yet to see one of my trees fruit. Have you picked up a copy of The New Cider Makers Handbook” by Claude Joliqouer (sp)? He’s in Quebec and comments on some of his results. I’ve picked up a couple of new varieties he’s spoken highly of, Douce de Charlevoix, in particular. I’m sitting on 35ish varieties. Some will presumably do well, the others will be top worked.

Welcome to ‘the long game!’

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image

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Yes, the book is on the end table next to me. I saw more winter kill in my nursery bed than I had anticipated, so I’m a little gun shy right now.

Buying juice… I personally have no issue with a winery buying juice from far away as it really doesn’t feel that different from buying juice from half way across the state. If they ferment it, the wine is theirs! What I have a hard time with is wineries buying shiners (wine made/bottled by another winery) from other wineries. To me, it seems that one must make wine to be called a winery. When someone buys others’ finished product and sells it as their own, they are much more a wine retailer than a winery.

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Fruits taste different depending on the region they are from. Sometimes the minerals in the soil impact taste or the hot sun etc. . In principal i agree its done frequently but wouldnt it be nice if you could taste location in a bottle without a label and if the wine etc. Is made correctly we can. We cannot ever have a fine Kansas wine without a lot of work going into making better fruits. France, Italy and Spain produce the best wines in the world and the lions share of the bottles are sold by them. Washington red delicios apples taste like carboard because of the region and Kansas red delicious apples are delicious. Kansas is not France nor are our wineries producing french quality wine. Its all about the fruits not the process. That is not true of everything and may not be in your case if your getting fruits from a nearby location. Might not be able to tell a bit of difference in some regions if they are close enough or similar enough.

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