I saw some video where they were saying you could make money selling blackberries on one acre. I don’t mean can you make a dollar. I mean how much could you actually make? Granted it’s vague, but maybe if you sold at markets, online, and the ones you can’t put in a clam shell to a brewer, what could you really expect to make?
I’m in Atlanta. I couldn’t tell if a restaurant would buy them or a brewer and I honestly don’t know for sure what I could sell (or even how). I figure most fruits end up on the ground. Edible but not sellable to the regular consumer. And do people really buy that much jam?
I know I’m being negative, talking myself out of it, but what is possible, reasonable here? Trying to be realistic.
The short answer is yes you can make money selling blackberries on one acre, but it gets complicated quickly. How do you plan to sell them, what are your markets, what are your costs?
This survey is out of date (21018) but is probably a good starting place to see price ranges.
But you can also go to the local outlets you might sell to and see what the going market rate is and you might find you can make substantially more per pound in a niche market. For example, in my area (Arlington, VA) I looked at the little half-full plastic pints selling for $8 each at our local farmers markets and guestimated that came out to over $20/pound, so I thought I was getting a pretty good return on my 5 Ponca plants given the harvest I was getting times that price. Plus mine tasted a lot better. But pick your own will be less, selling wholesale would be less, more rural areas will be less and of course the area of the country you are growing matters as well.
If you come up with a price you think you can get per pound, multiplied times the number of plants you would grow, times an estimated yield of 10 lbs per plant you can get an idea of the gross sales. I think 400 plants, spaced 5 feet apart in rows with 12-15 feet between rows could fit easily in an acre still giving you enough room for some utility and storage buildings, driveways, parking, etc. Maybe you could squeeze in more. So based on 400 plants if you could actually get $20/lb selling in small containers at a high-end farmers market you might gross $80K if all went well (it rarely does), but doing You Pick for $5/lb you would be closer to $20K gross.
Then subtract your costs (including amortizing cold storage, trellising, any sheds and other larger start-up costs) and you can get an idea of what might be possible. I’ve talked to a few people with market gardens or small orchards and they all say the hardest thing isn’t the growing, but the selling (including storage, protecting against spoilage, etc.). You are basically running a small business like any other, so don’t forget all the time bookkeeping, ordering supplies, filing taxes (sales, local, state and federal), etc., etc.
I went to a meeting of blackberries growers last January. There were about 9 of us there. It was organized by a very successful vegetable grower, who grows hundreds of acres of vegetables.
He had planted one acre of blackberries and had kept the data since he had his first real harvest. He sold about 1/3 wholesale and 2/3rds retail.
His total gross for 5 years was about $33.5K or an average of roughly $6500 per year gross. he did have some years where the cold weather took a large portion of his crop. But his best year was $11K in gross sales.
Pricing is pretty important. I had the lowest prices of blackberries of all the growers there at $4.50 per lb. I recall one grower from the Witchita area was charging a lot, something like 9 bucks a pound.
We do 100% Upick for our blackberries. That’s because blackberries take a long time to pick any significant pounds, because they are so small. I think we can pick something like 6 lbs. per hour. By the time I pay someone to pick, most of the money for the blackberries is going to my picker. We are probably a little slower pickers than most because I’m pretty picky about what goes into the clamshell.
Some of the guys at the meeting do pick their own and take them to a farmer’s market, or sell them in a farm store. But they are using Hispanic labor, which tends to be significantly more productive in field work than most American labor. And they are charging higher prices for their blackberries.
So far we are able to sell all our blackberries Upick, which is nice. All I do is give people a gallon bucket with gallon bags inside. They fill their bags, I weigh their bags, check them out, they leave with the bags. I sanitize the buckets and reuse them for the next customers.
I should mention birds eat a lot of blackberries so be cautious of the yield numbers you may see on budgets.
You can make money selling pre-picked blackberries if you can sell them for a fair price and you have the labor to pick them. Quite a few price surveys and budgets exist for Blackberries.
We sell several acres of PYO blackberries. Our PYO price is around $5/lb. We also sell some prepicked fruit when picking is fast and easy for $5/pint. An acre or two is not too tough but larger amounts may require lower prices which would produce lower profits
Plan on 10K sellable pounds per acre. One good picker can pick and average of 10-15 pounds an hour so it takes many hours to pick an acre. Refrigeration is necessary and a cardboard flat with 12 containers costs around $2.50 the last time we purchased them. Most commercial fruit is packed in half pints but most fruit at the farmer’s market is packed in pints, We have not sold any Blackberries at the farmer’s market in a long time, but it was pretty competitive when we did. Older production budgets estimated establishment costs at around $10K per acre, but the costs for posts and wire is way up, so it would cost a lot more now. I would only plant Tissue Culture plants direct from the lab in order to reduce the amount of virus problems. Most commercial growers use some form of drip irrigation and a regular spray schedule will probably be necessary for commercial fruit. Organic chemicals work and NCSU produced a budget for organic Blackberry production a while back.