Owning an apple orchard

brigid68June 8, 2009

My family has an opportunity to purchase a 67 acre apple orchard. At present we own a deli in the Washington DC area, which is a fairly easy operation, a lot of hours. The hard work is dealing with employees and being belittled by customers. We feel our children 8, 5, 3 suffer greatly because one of us always has to be at the store so family time is limited to one parent. We thought by going home (north, originally from NY), both of us working the orchard so we would both always be around, our children would have an awesome childhood growing up on an orchard, it would be good for all of us. We know it will be hard work, but we are not sure if we will be able to make a living. Ideally we would sell the deli and the house and be able to buy the orchard outright with money left over. We would incorporate vegetable gardens, pick ur own, pumpkin patch, farm stand, many activities to increase business, eventually a b & b. We would like to know what everyone thinks. Is this a SANE thing to do? We have been in the deli business 10 years and that is about all I can take. The stress is too much....Thanks for everyone's input...Brigid Doherty

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If you don't already have a real farm background you're going to need climbing gear to get up the side of this learning curve.
Apples aren't a big crop here so I'm not up on the numbers but sixty-seven acres isn't much when you farm for a living no matter what the crop is. Keep in mind also that you will have tons of up-front farming expenses that will be due long before you get paid for your crop.
I would advise buying something smaller and closer to where you are now and trying that for a while. Maybe you could hire a manager for the deli and that way you still have it to fall back on if farming is not for you.
Best of luck on whatever you decide- I'm currently phasing out my stressful business to keep bees full time so I know exactly where you are coming from.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:58PM
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Follow your dream. There are always going to be a learning curve and upfront expenses no matter what you do. Talk to the people who you are going to buy from and get all the information you can get from them---to suppliers, who buys, where they sell etc...heck even ask if you can call on them once in awhile if you are encountering a problem(s)

Did you really know how to run a deli when you first got into it? Did you realize the problems you would encounter running a deli? You learned as you went and you took it all in stride. Your family will thrive especially your children by having you there all the time--even if you are just sharing chores around the farm-your children can and will adapt and will learn many new things. I would hazzard a guess and say they were not allowed to be in the deli for many, many reasons-even it it was to just help mom or dad with there chores! This can be a really fun time for your family--heck get some chickens and sell eggs. Get a dog!
You will need to make sure you have money put back for those emergencies etc.....unexpected anything.

Your dreams of all you would like to do sound wonderful.

Before you sell the deli outright-a word of caution---maybe one of you should commute for a while just to keep the money flow and as suggested by CPP in the above post---hire a manager but keep your finger in the pie--say for another year? You could still buy the orchard, it would be hard work but think of the end result.

This is just one Mothers opinion!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 11:03PM
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Brigid, it sounds like a glorious plan to me. I agree with both of the previous posters; do your research. There are expenses to put out up front: Replacing old or diseased trees, spraying, time put forth for pruning and so forth. I would question why they are wanting to sell and what their financials look like for their business of the orchard. Are all the trees sound and producing, no disease? How old are the trees? I don't know much about orchards but I would ask these questions right off the top. Keep in mind that if you were to have the orchard as your sole income, you are also at the whim of Mother Nature. I don't want to be discouraging but consider these things and make allowances for them. Good luck, I sure wish I had the nerve to get done at my current job and do something like that. Lori

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 11:55PM
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Brigid, I would definitely do my homework before going about it seriously. Farming is a big time expense. We own 72 acres with a huge garden and an pecan/peach orchard. We are lucky though that we both came from similar farming agriculture backgrounds, so we already had tractors, mowers and experience in growing things. It is a wonderful life that we are giving our 2 children and wouldn't trade it for anything-however I must admit here that we are not farming to make a living-we just like doing this-we both have full time jobs off the farm. I would definitely sit down and discuss this at length especially with someone from A Farm Bureau or the local Extension Agent with the county that the farm is in or local agriculture college. Whatever you do I wish you luck because sometimes things do not work out like we plan but then sometimes another door opens up. I wish that I could do what you want to do fulltime.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 6:17PM
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I think you've got 3 great assets going for you: 1) Know what hard work is all about 2) Sound smart 3) Won't have a big debt hanging around your neck. Do your homework and go for it.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 4:47PM
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nhsuzanne(z5 SW-NH)

I think it's a great idea but do your homework for sure. Here where I live many apple orchards have closed (years ago). There are now some very special orchards that offer much more than apples. Check out this place near me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Alyson's Orchard

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 9:53AM
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How about both? Check with your banker to see if there is a way you can maybe sell your house-use that as a down payment on the orchard get a loan to cover the balance owed on the orchard and additional credit line for operational expenses for the orchard. Hire an Experienced deli manager; possibly a current trusted employee; at a modest salary plus 1 to 1.5% of sales--keep tract of food costs/sales ratios to keep them honest. You will have the Orchard to operate and income from the deli to live on as the orchard becomes profitable enough to live on. Then sell the deli to pay off the orchard--AND THEY LIVED HAPPLY EVER AFTER!! THE END

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 5:38PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Interest rates are rather favorable right now, websites like trulia.com and zillow.com track home prices by region and you can use one of those to find out how real estate in your area is doing, you probably don't want to sell if houses are going for 50% of what they did in 2004. Good luck

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 5:30AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Do it. :)

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 1:54PM
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