Which one do you think is the most productive bush?

You are exactly right about the profit potential for many large scale farms who sell commodities at the market price. These folks make a lot of money when prices are high and weather is good, but can loose big time when prices are low. My 30 years of experience with small farms is very different. Lots of small growers in my area have learned to make a comfortable living selling direct to the consumer but it takes a lot of effort, knowledge and experience. We have found that a basic knowledge of finance really helps too.

Most small farmers we see in my area produce high value annual crops often in a high tunnel or some type of free range chickens or eggs. This type of farm depends on large amounts of grunt labor to make it happen along with very high sales prices, but we have seen some small farms that generate over 50K per acre!

Our process is very different, It’s capital intensive initially when the trees/bushes are planted but does not require a lot of labor or other inputs once the establishment cost are paid for, except for Apples where the chemical bill is too high… We sell most of the 5 acres of fruit we grow in just two 5 hour days for 10 hours per week… The target for gross sales is $1000 per hour on a good day. The revenue target is 25K per acre. Once the cost of establishing the fruit is paid for, the out of pocket cost of production is small which creates a high profit margin. We are a “price maker” where we set the selling price as opposed to a being a “price taker” like farmer growing and selling commodities like wheat, corn of even large scale commercial fruit.

The transition I see from large scale industrial ag to a more sustainable system of small farms is real and growing. It’s positive in just about every way except it requires the local food to be sold for high prices relative to the supermarket. In most cases the quality is higher so a higher sales price is justified. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of society struggles to afford the price of industrial food and will probably never be big customers for me

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For backyard growing, I tend to do more of a general net calculation. Initial cost+maintenance costs+labour+space is compared to $ value of crop+rarity or our personal desire for that crop+quality difference to commercially available+ processing time/labour.
So far, we had several years where the big winner was the fall bearing red raspberries. Tons of production with very little costs in and deeply valued. Sadly, they don’t take drought well and we have root borers so they have mostly dropped off.
As they get older, the sour cherry trees are moving up as are the pear trees. I expect the pears to be top very soon. ( if our lying freeloaders plums trees ever produced for the flowers they set, they would have been top of the heap years ago. As things stand, they are possibly getting taken out next year)

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Blueberrythrill, thanks for taking the time to put together that detailed post, great info.

My house is on 1.14 acres of land, probably tap close to .20 that I can dedicate to trees and bushes plus other areas where plants will make it but not on 100% sun. I still have 12~13 years until I retire and the plan is to make about $20k a year in various endeavors to augment my retirement income. I’m cheating by doing the capital investments now as part of my hobbies, and will contribute the cheap labor (myself) once I retire.

On the plant front I’m currently I’m building my plant library, meaning growing the bushes and trees that will provide me with the material to reproduce. I’m also building my skills, specially in the reproduction of hard to start varieties such as sour cherries; nothing works to keep the competition at bay than to raise the skill bar. Next year I’ll put down a 20’ by 10’ lean-to green house that will greatly increase my short season.

Based on some low level sales (to test assumptions and to further fund my hobby) It should not take much effort to turn $5k a year on plant sales. I should be able to bring another $500 running a you-pick operation, and may streamline sweet cider production to the point I could efficiently bring in another $1,000 through that venue. It may not sound like much but when it comes on top of an already funded retirement and I enjoy doing it, well it will keep me busy and happy.

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Don, if you want small scale money streams, consider doing at least a couple of preserves with your produce.
Sour cherries can make a very easy and delicious jam. Lots of other jams are also quite simple to do, and if you are growing the fruits, you get all of the end product, added value rather than just moving the raw materials.
Relishes made at home are shockingly tastier than any commercial.
It might be possible to rent or join a co-op that allows for small scale commercial kitchen or processing space.
I expect you could move a decent amount just to your other stream clients or at holiday sales.

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I did the math and it is just not worth it. While I’m in line to produce a good amount of cherries and apples I can probably consume most of the cherries myself and for the apples I do plan on funneling the abundance into cider, so anything beyond personal consumption I’m sure I can dispose of, I just don’t think it will be that much :slight_smile:

The rest? Well as I said on my limited space the rest of my bushes are my plant library, there to provide material for reproducing bushes. As such I may have two of a given variety at most, so I have limited capacity for production and once again; most goes to personal consumption or to gift away. Besides it is too small a scale to really make much gains in efficiency to make it worth it; instead of making $2 a square foot of soil from fruit I end up making $4, in exchange for hours of labor.

The respectable amount of money seem to be on bushes, specially the edible kind. I can gross $40 per square foot with the end product in half gallon pots that fit four to a square foot. The lean-to green house I planning on putting up will have a working capacity of around 96 square feet; between that indoor space, outdoor space, and able to provide plants for summer and fall planting, I can really maximize the use of my limited space while just eating everything that grows :slight_smile:

Who knows. For now i’m just experimenting, learning, and testing the market with some sales. Between now and retirement I’m bound to figure ways to fine tune my approach. I may do volume of starter plants to sell to nurseries bypassing retail, or find that starter veggies and herbs are extra profitable. What I do know is that I like growing plants and the intellectual challenge of figuring out efficient methods and processes.

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Don, that comment about haskaps and cherries hurts. I have wild seedling sweet cherries as sacrificial offering, followed by Himalayan blackberries. But I only have 10 haskap bushes - getting to about 8’ tall now.

Last year I was able to make 1 half pint jar of haskap jam, plus probably ate a few handfuls :frowning: My varieties like to drop when whey are ripe, so pick one, bump off 2. I like the video I saw of using a kiddie pull with a slit in it to surround the bush.

I did net one year, which helped a bunch. I threw a net over the rows and held it to the ground with steel conduit. But I’ll need to clean out some of the blackberry volunteers in the rows before I dare make such a tangle.

For productivity, and ease of harvest, its hard to beat Aronia. Unfortunately they aren’t the best tasting. I like the juice, from masticating juicer, but the much easier steam extracted tastes awful to me. I do like eating them directly from the bush when they are dead ripe and juicy though.

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Oh, trust me; any haskaps those bastards get is not on purpose. I net my bushes and in the morning I would find about 10 robins testing my defenses with at least one that managed to get in. That’s the one that gets a near heart attack when I run outside yelling like a maniac.

I love chokeberries, my daughter specifically loves them in cheesecake. They are like lemons, you can’t judge a lemon because you can’t just eat one off the tree. The juice gets reduced into jelly and syrups, the mush we cook with sugar and use on oat bars.

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It’s great that your family like aronia. It’s super nutritious, and about the easiest thing to grow and harvest.

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i have 2 bushes always loaded with fruit but no one likes them. ive tried different recipies and still dont like them. i like tart even sour fruit but that dry astringency gets me everytime. like you , i let them on the bush until they start to wrinkle. i can eat a few fresh but thats it. any tips on how to use them that actually tastes good?

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Dude, they are fantastic. Literally think lemons; it would be completely unfair if somebody would attempt to eat one fresh and declare the fruit inedible.

Get a bunch, wash, throw on a pot, add a ton of sugar, and with a potato smasher mush the thing as it cooks. Once you get a goey purple mess use the potato smasher to drain the liquid into another container. That liquid is what you process into syrup and jellies. It should be extremely sweet like something you would use for pancakes.

Don’t dare to throw the mush away. You can add a few spoonfuls to make jams instead of jellies, but another household favorite is on oatmeal bars. As a matter of fact any dry fruit mush left over from extracting juice or jelly is a candidate. Here is the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter. The real deal, not jiffy or similar abomination.
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups rolled oats

In the microwave warm up the peanut butter and honey (or double boiler on the stove top) to soften it up. Work the oats into the mix. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. Transfer the gooey mess and flatten with a spoon. Chill in the refrigerator to set. Once set cut into bars shape with a knife, at this point it should be fine for room temperature.

But! That’s just the basic recipe. Chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruits, fruit pulp, caramel chunks, dip one side in chocolate, sprinkle some sea salt, add a tablespoon or two of good single malt, a hint of molasses with the honey, there are many many many ways to do this right. To answer your question add the sweet sweet chokeberry mush and distribute well, you won’t even be able to tell that there are seeds in it.

If all else fails in a glass pour an ounce of syrup, two ounces of club soda, an ounce (or two) of vodka, add crushed ice and garnish with a branch of mint leaves. if that doesn’t make you fall in love with chokeberries it was just not meant to be.

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If you had enough, I’d suggest “brandy”!

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Definitely liquor!

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i like lemons and limes sprinkled with a little sugar but aronia not so much. i have a european steam juicer. ill try juicing them. ill try the oatmeal bars too. have all kinds of stuff i could throw in them. hate to waste such healthy fruit. tried them dehydrated and they taste almost burnt. still have 20lbs in the freezer taking up space since last summer. get about 35-40lbs from those 2 bushes. ones viking the other is a polish cultivar i dont remember the name.

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I have a steam juicer and did not find it to improve any of the qualities. For some reason, juice from a masticating juicer is much better, especially after a few days in the fridge. Reminds me of POM wonderful pomegranate juice. Maybe it’s the ground up then strained out seeds and skin that make it better.

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There’s new research, not just about the astounding benefits of pomegranate, but also of the benefits of the peel. I figured, what the heck, I bought the pomegranate, why not? So I made a glycerite botanical medicine out of the peels of two pomegranates. It tasted like pomegranates! Cheap medicine, too. You can only buy pomegranates here from Sept. to Dec., but I can take the glycerite the rest of the year.

John S
PDX OR

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I am about finished with reading “So you want to start a nursery” and I would suggest it to you for your endeavors. There are a few other really good general recommendations in this thread if you haven’t read it yet.

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I would second the suggestion to read the book “So You Want to Start a Nursery”
by Tony Avent. There is a lot of useful info there. I actually think the book would be also valuable for experienced small scale commercial growers as well. In his book, Avent discusses quite a few issues that are skipped or glossed over in other guides.

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Another aspect to this conversation that I don’t think has been brought up yet would be considering the calories per pound produce or the nutritional value of each fruit and how that weighs in to productivity. I don’t have answers for that but I’m sure there are nutritional values out there somewhere for this kind of information. Obviously based on certain cultivars you’re going to have different levels sugar etc etc.

Funny enough I started this thread mostly just to satisfy some idle curiosity on sheer by-the-pound and not even taking value or do-I-really-want-to-eat-this into consideration. It is rather nice that it turned into the economical aspect as I do plan on starting a retirement nursery.

Just to share my experience: as an avid hobbyist it is not hard to gross $400~$500 a year. Most would consider this pocket change but the real value is not they money; I’m not selling because I need it but because it let me test my assumptions; I check what sells, what doesn’t, the amount of effort, and gives me an outlet for my reproduction experiments where I am learning the sticks and leaves side of the equation.

My goal upon retirement is to setup an edibles nursery to bring in around $5k a year. This is quite doable on my limited physical space and with some sensible infrastructure (efficient layout, drip irrigation zones, 10’x20’ greenhouse) I could actually support twice that but I want to scale it to the amount of effort I want to spend doing it. After all there are other things I will be doing for money.

I have well over 10 years to refine my approach, develop all sorts of expertise, build infrastructure, and sell a bunch of plants to test my assumptions as to how reality actually works. The nice thing about the slow and steady approach is that by the time I’m ready to start in earnest I will already have the infrastructure, knowledge, and an envelope full of cash from saving all those hundred here hundred there I made just fooling around.

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