Small Fruits

There are tremendous opportunities for part time fruit growers. Every large metropolitan area could use more fruit producers. This section will focus on the basic small fruit crops, such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. These fruits generally produce an excellent return on your investment.

Much of the demand is for ‘U-Pick’ fields near larger cities. Thus, a few acres of small fruits can produce a substantial income. Except for strawberries, most of the fruit plants can keep producing for as long as 10 years, or more. Also, small fruit crops produce a high return per acre — up to $15,000 gross income per acre.

Blueberries grow on small bushes and require an acid type soil. You can get about 1,000 bushes on an acre. Many farmers argue that blueberries are the best crop for ‘U-Pick’ operations.

But blueberries take a little more care and careful adjustment of the soil acidity, and are a bit harder to grow than other berries. Yet once you have a good established stand of blueberries, they can produce an excellent income.

Grapes can be grown almost anywhere there is fertile, well drained soil. Grapevines will last decades (up to 80 years!) and, therefore, can produce a permanent income. Grapes can be used in ‘U-Pick’ operations, and also sold via retail stores. It’s important to study the proper pruning methods for grapes. Further information can be gleaned from U.S. Government agriculture publications found in most libraries or from the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.

Raspberries can produce quick results and will continue producing for many years. The plants are low cost to purchase and establish, have little disease problems, and usually produce large crops. Best of all, there simply aren’t enough of these delicious berries available. Thus, the demand is high and they will bring a large price per quart. You can easily propagate new plants yourself, adding to your crop each year. Raspberries require lots of sun, fertile, well drained soil, and effective mulching.

Strawberries are also an extremely popular crop. You can easily sell all you grow either by the ‘U-Pick’ arrangement or sell direct to the consumer. The cost to establish a strawberry patch is generally low. And yields range from 6,000 to 15,000 pounds per acre.

Here are a few tips for ‘U-Pick’ operations:

(1) Have adequate parking, signs, and portable restrooms available.

(2) Send each picker into assigned rows.

(3) Use reusable containers and sell by the container, instead of by the pound.

(4) Have plenty of empty containers to use, and make your customers feel at home.

Some growers are also producing other types of lesser-known crops such as kiwi, guavas, and Chinese dates. But, for most people just starting in the ‘cash crop’ business, the 4 small fruits recommended in this section are the most cost effective.

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