Surviving on a fruit farm - spending money doesnt work

Highly recommend you make your money on sweat equity as opposed to spending lots of money on fruit trees. Callery pear seedlings as an example are everywhere free and people like us will also help you with free scion wood. Cost =$0. Huge gain 0 or low cost is how you farm! Hard work and determination is the key to everything. What suggestions do yiu have for those starting out in this fruit growing business? Growing fruit and living off the land more than most has been very good to us not just financially but also by improving the quality of our life.

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The romantic image of orchard isn’t necessarily in line with the amount of work involved, but it can still be a fulfilling passion. If you like to learn, it’s a great thing – always something new to learn, and new things to try, if you want. I agree that going cheap is good. And a person doesn’t have to rush it. Plant some rootstocks (or even start some rootstocks from seed), get them established to the point they can be grafted, and graft them over time. There will always be plenty to do, so have some goals and prioritize if you want, but always be ready to have other plans if the weather or the trees (or wildlife) throw a monkey wrench into it. Diversity of plants is a great thing to balance out against unpredictable weather.

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I think hard work and learning can payoff in the long run for an orchard. I am just really learning a lot of this myself but am happy I did! I did buy some rootstock this year but got many scions for the cost of shipping or less from several members on here :+1:

Plus sharing and swapping scions loyally can be a fun way to get to know others in your community and surrounding area.

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I suppose spending money can work if you have a ‘regular’ job and are doing a little better than just making ends meet. (Some early losses in a new business can be a third to half paid for by savings on income taxes alone.)

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Many people think spending $30 per pear tree x 1000 pear trees is the way to go but in Kansas i find store bought pear trees inferior and risky at best. It took me years of trial and error to figure that out. Those callery that grow like weeds everyone wants rid of those are what you want. They dont need you to live. In my area water is precious some years though this is not a drought year. Callery live regardless the weather or good or bad location. Some of my land is pretty bad but its good enough for callery and bet rootstocks. Never fertilize them , dont spray them, completely maintenance free until i field graft them later.

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Ive run the numbers on planting a number of different fruit crops, as a retirement income generator. Id like to keep my costs low, while being able to bring a good, diverse crop to market once my trees reach bearing age. As i have about a decade before im eligible to receive my pension, i have some time. I have found that i can source rootstocks at a very reasonable price, and can graft or bud varieties of my choosing. This strategy is more time and effort on my part, but the money savings is huge. I can source 1 year old apple whips for about $17 each, with out a volume discount. I can buy Geneva rootstocks for about $3 each and graft over varieties from exchanged scions or go to my orchard and get scions for little to no cost. Even if each graft cost me $1 dollar per scion and $1 dollar for parafilm, i can save $12 per tree. The whips are a year ahead, but im not dependant on their income in a high density planting, so the savings is just that, savings. I bought 50 rootstocks this spring and grafted over 48 of them this past week. Buying 50 trees would have cost me $850 dollars, where as buying the rootstocks cost me just under $200, shipped to my door. The $650 dollar savings is very well worth me doing the grafting myself.
Im planning on grafting about 1000 trees over the next 10 years or so to get my orchard up to a level where i can make a decent income from it in retirement.

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Think of starting from scratch. Buying some acreage…around here $3k/acre. Then trees/fencing/etc… equipment.sprays… Property taxes and insurance… I’ve looked at small chunks of vacant land here in WI and the property taxes can be high. There are programs you can get into to lower them, but there are conditions and in some cases i know you have to have a minimum amount of acreage.

Needed to buy land in about 1991 when it was $200/acre.

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Exactly but $3000 now in 20 years will seem like $100.

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Just go on and stool bed some rootstocks then…and have nothing but time invested. :slight_smile:

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Well i don’t think prices have moved a lot in the last 15 years?..They may have even come down a little. I know prime hunting land seems to hold its value. A family member bought a little cabin and under 10 acres (all wooded) for $90K about 5 years ago… which at the time i thought was nuts, but now it was probably an excellent investment with people fleeing the city for the country.

I’m not sure what the country looks like in 20 years! Probably full mad max at that point.

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I could stool bed up root stocks, but i plan on purchasing just for peace of mind that i will have the number of rootstocks that i want when i want them. Not a bad idea to have some back ups though, for replacements or adding to purchased ones.

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The biggest advantage of buying trees is that they normally go into production much faster than the trees you graft of bud for yourself. Of course that is not an issue if you have a long time horizon like 10 years. My time horizon was much shorter after I retired. I bought most of my apple trees but grafted some from the budwood I cut from the purchased trees. I also rooted some of older blueberry and blackberry varieties to save some money

As a side note, I had an almost unbelievable yield on some 2 year old G11 trees I bought from Vaughn nursery. The fruit in year 2 more than paid for the trees. The last time I bought trees from a commercial nursery I paid about $10 for Apple trees or $5 for Peach trees plus a license fee for the rootstocks

Certain newer varieties of bush or cane fruit are patented so you have no choice other than buying the planting stock

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The G11 trees you bought from Vaughn were they trees that have lots of feathers and weren’t headed back? In other words trees that would work well for a tall spindle planting?

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What are things that could be done building or irrigation wise to stop your fruit trees from burning in the event of a large fire?

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Cut a large fire break using a dozer and v plow configuration around the entire orchard. Keep grasses mowed short and underbrush nonexistant.

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Here we need to do 50’ of brown to brown and even then our pine fires can just jump. I was wondering if there was any new or old methods that withstood some fires?

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How deep is your water table? I have a friend who was worried about his property during our big fires of a few years ago (2000, 2002?) and decided to drill a well and hook up a sprinkler system. But he lived just 50 yards from a productive creek and there was plenty of water not very deep. Still, during the really big fires sometimes nothing you can do is enough.

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Yes, foolin’ around with seeds and rootstocks in stool beds seems like a waste of [precious] time to me, and only something to consider for the pure fun and enjoyment of it–in your “spare time.” Why bother with all that work and wait, when you can buy rootstocks for about $3 each?

And waiting for those grafted rootstocks to become whips, to develop and become feathered, and then to become something resembling a small tree can take some time too. Lol. How long do you want to wait for your apples, if you are beginning a hobby orchard during your retirement? How many trees do you really want and need, if only a hobby and not an income/money-making business? Maybe 20 trees times $30 to $40 each is not too much, if you consider the heartache and misery of watching and waiting and learning some things the hard way–it ain’t all that easy starting from scions and rootstocks! LOL But hey, if you don’t mind taking two steps forward and one step back every year, and learning a lot on your own by trial and error, then go for it–Godspeed to ya, my friend, and good luck! (I am speaking as someone who is a little frustrated, obviously!.)

On the other hand, learning which rootstocks will “thriive” at your location is hard to achieve without some trial and error, that is for sure, and buying one or two year old trees on the wrong rootstock could be costly and discouraging as well. Indeed. (That from experience too!) Ha!

So I would recommend a newcomer start first by asking his or her self, first, is this a hobby or business? And then ask, how much time do I have? Is this orchard going to become a legacy? One of those “U-pick” orchards, with desert apples, pie apples, and cider apples? Standard-sized trees, or dwarfs on trellises? Certainly standard-sized trees would be cheaper and less labor-intensive, whereas dwarfs faster to produce…but with much more labor and expense…

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The trees from Vaughn did not look nearly as good at the 5/8 inch feathered trees on B9 I bought from ACN but they grew like crazy - 2 or 3 times as fast as the B9 and hit the 9 foot wire in year 2. I did not head these trees but shortened the laterals. Trees were planted 4X13 with 12 foot post and 4 trellis wires. The trees grew so aggressively they snapped a 4/5 inch post on one row during a high wind event with a big crop load.

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Well its like somewhere between 20’ and 1300’ deep if you want water and extremely difficult to get permits where i would like to live but that’s only for so long.

There was this guy in colorado who stayed at his house during the black forest fire and just doused everything and kept his irrigation running all over.

I have read this and it kind of says similar stuff but it always seems to have lots of luck requirements.

https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/em9172module5/html

What about ways to build your irrigation system so it could be turned and used against your perimiter?

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