What makes someone a commercial grower?

OK, obviously if you’re selling fruit or trees, it’s a commercial enterprise. I’m curious about ordering from commercial nurseries and what makes you “commercial” versus “home” or “hobby”. Years ago when I purchased my first acreage (all of 4 acres), I decided that I’d start a small pick your own orchard and I ordered 100 trees from Hilltop Nursery in Michigan. I named my farm for the purposes of the fruit order, but I never registered as a business or anything. They didn’t give me any grief, just sent the trees that I ordered at the commercial price (those Hilltop trees were very nice by the way and I’m curious if anyone knows who operates the business today if it’s still doing business). Well, I grew some nice fruit for the family, but I never went into any sort of business and always felt a little bit creepy about it.

I now live on 100+ acres and have a 1 acre orchard with roughly 80 trees presently, but have no plans for selling the fruit (though I have occasionally sold beef, pumpkins, hay and even a bit of maple syrup). I’m actually thinking about the future though. I have my eyes on the family farm and I’ve had some non-committal assurances that I’d have it one day and I’m really thinking about some sort of commercial operation, either a pick your own or a small fresh market orchard, something like that. I’m just beating this thing around in my head and I’m nowhere near actually pulling the trigger and admittedly, I have a LOT to learn before I would try anything like this, but I’m curious if I could set up a commercial account with ACN or one of the others in a few years to get the better price and better availability of nursery stock.

I presume that there are some members here who are in fact commercial growers; I was just curious if anyone had any thoughts about starting a small orchard, how you’d market and sell your fruit, etc… Again, I’m truly just in the beginning stages of beating this around. A year ago I would have said that I want to plant 150 trees on 1 or 2 acres, have them spaced relatively far apart and treat it as a hobby orchard where I maybe made enough money to pay my expenses. Now I’m starting to think of putting in 500, 800 or 1000 trees in a higher density system, but I’m not sure.

For purposes of buying trees at the best prices all I’ve seen required is ordering enough trees. For DWN right now that’s about 150 trees minimum and bundles of each variety. Bundles are usually 10 of a variety but can be less for larger than normal trees. So the only requirement I’m aware of at DWN is a 150 tree order comprising a minimum of 10 trees of any one variety. I think most other nurseries would be the similar but I’d imagine it varies. They don’t care what you do with the trees or your business plan, at least up to a point. Personally I won’t tell them if I were ordering 150 trees to be split amongst 15 people on a forum like this. But I won’t feel bad about it either as long as no one were shipping the trees to China or some such…

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OK, thanks, that’s what I presumed. Hilltop didn’t ask questions and didn’t say boo, even though I only purchased 100 and didn’t have a registered business. As I recall, I went back a few years later and even ordered a few more (maybe 25).

Seems like a 100 tree order is enough to establish the “commercial” relationship with many nursery like ACN. After the first order you may be able to purchase smaller quantity for a non retail price. The minimum from Stark seems to always be 100 trees for a commercial price.

There are several conversations here from folks selling fruit at farmer’s markets or U-pick.

Expect to make some money after several years of hard work, but any skilled or semi skilled job pays more money than growing fruit.

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Yeah, for sure if I was interested in making money, I’d take a part-time job in retirement rather than growing fruit, but if you’re going to put the orchard in anyway…

I understand and share your passion!

We grow and sell about 5 acres of fruit u-pick as a retirement project. Had a very busy day today and almost ran out of places to park cars.for the u-pick customers.

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From a business perspective it all comes down to quantity. It is much more efficient for someone to pack a large box of trees than 2 or 3 in a box. Labor is the biggest $ cost just as with most business’. At least thats how I feel. I start giving price breaks at 20 trees no minimums on individual varieties, but I am a little guy in the big scheme of things. I dont care what you do with the trees in terms of RESALE and neither does ACN, Starks, DWN, etcc… Once you own the tree you own the tree. Commercial is just a “name” we give large orders, sounds more professional!:slight_smile:

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I was told by Indiana Berry that they have a different price schedule for re-sellers as opposed to folks that grow and sell fruit. I had never seen that before and was surprised by the statement. They wanted a lot of paperwork including a tax number for resale to set up a “commercial account”. Not a very welcoming place in my opinion

On the other hand, ACN and most of the other nursery I have done business with seem to prefer to sell to a grower rather than a res-seller.

I buy some trees from ACN for resale, because I dont grow every variety that I have customers request. I have a commercial account, but I cant ever recall ACN asking what I intend to do with the trees. They have always been easy to work with and produce quality trees. I “worked” with another large national wholesaler this year and I will never use them again! They were nothing but trouble.

As of about 3 years ago Hilltop was still in business. They were my first commercial nursery and provided very good trees. I liked the paint codes they put on all their trees so that a lost label didn’t mean you’d lost track of the variety. However, they shrinked their selection to the point where I couldn’t order a commercial quantity from them so I moved most of my business to ACN (less consistent with their paint coding).

Van Well nursery has always given me a wholesale price as long as I order bundles of 5 of any variety I want and I’ve never ordered 100 trees from them.

Thanks for the information everyone, very interesting and informative.

I don’t anticipate ordering even the smaller minimum quantities but I enjoyed learning how the nurseries make their discount decisions.

Isn’t there also the expectation that a commercial customer is more knowledgeable and needs less “hand-holding” than a retail customer?

Yes and that would include far less trees killed by poor culture. I doubt that real commercial customers would even get money back for dead trees. I’m talking about big orders like thousands of trees. In rare cases it’s the nurseries fault when a tree dies. The retail customer is paying more to cover all the trees that people kill and want another. I’ve ask for a refund once or twice in 45 yrs.

Like many nurseries, Adams County has various price breaks depending on the quantity ordered. When you order 25 trees, you qualify for their first price break (which is significant compared to their retail pricing). As I recall VanWell has their first price break at 50 trees.

Fruittreefarm.com (retail side of Cumberland Valley nursery) sells their trees retail at pretty much wholesale prices. I don’t know how they do it.

Tried doing a search for their website and nothing works. Last activity on their facebook page was from last year. Are they still in business?

From what I have seen, the peach trees from Vaughn and Cumberland Valley are about 1/2 the price of most other nursery for orders in the 50-100 tree range. I was able to buy some peach trees last year from Cumberland Valley when trees were in very short supply but they indicated they were trying to place the limited supply of trees in the hands of growers.

Chartman,

They don’t seem that they have a Website anymore, so I don’t know if Cumberland Valley does retail anymore. I hope they didn’t get permanently out of the retail business. It’s a good nursery.

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