Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on May 24, 2023 Updated on February 14, 2024
$95,800 - $262,300
$800,000 to $1,200,000 p.a.
Time to build
2 – 7 years
$160,000 - $240,000 p.a.
Fruit trees are fascinating, producing delicious and healthy goodies that can be picked and eaten on the spot. How great would it be to have your own orchard and provide those goodies to your community? You could set up a farm stand, or sell in bulk to local grocery stores or grocery chains and make some money in a $22 billion industry.
But before you start planting, you need to understand an orchard from a business perspective. Luckily, this step-by-step guide is loaded with all the information you need to start a lucrative orchard.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Average level of education – The average farmer has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average farmer in the US is 47.8 years old.
How much does it cost to start an orchard business?
Startup costs for an orchard range from $100,000 to $250,000 or more. Costs include the land, farm equipment, the trees, and a labor budget for planting. Costs will vary based on the size of the orchard.
Setting up a business name and corporation
$100 - $500
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
$500 - $1,000
Land down payment
$30,000 - $130,000
$20,000 - $30,000
Trees to plant
$20,000 - $50,000
Labor budget for planting
$25,000 - $50,000
$95,800 - $262,300
How much can you earn from an orchard business?
It will take several years to start making money. If you plant dwarf trees, it will take about 2 years. If you plant full size trees, they can take 7 years to mature. Your profit completely depends on the size of your orchard and how many trees you plant.
These calculations will assume that you can charge about $40 per bushel of fruit and have a profit margin after all costs of 20%.
When you start to harvest, you might produce 20,000 bushels a year, bringing in $800,000 in revenue. That would mean $160,000 in profit, assuming that 20% margin.
If you expand your orchard, you might produce 30,000 bushels per year, bringing in $1,200,000 in revenue. That would give you a nice annual profit of $240,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for an orchard. Your biggest challenges will be:
Funding the startup costs
Finding suitable land for the orchard
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting an orchard, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.
Plan an orchard location (land)
Choosing an orchard location requires careful consideration and planning, taking into account several important factors:
Climate: Different types of fruit trees have varying temperature and chilling requirements. Some trees, like apple and pear, need a certain number of cold, dormant hours to produce fruit. Others, like citrus, can’t withstand frost and require a warm climate. Check the USDA hardiness zones for your chosen fruit trees and ensure they’re suitable for your location.
Sun Exposure: Fruit trees generally need a lot of sun (at least 6 hours a day) to produce fruit effectively. Therefore, select a location that isn’t shaded by buildings or other trees.
Soil Quality: Fruit trees need well-drained soil to prevent root rot and other diseases. Clay or sandy soil can be improved with organic matter, but avoid planting in areas with consistently soggy soil. The soil’s pH level (how acidic or alkaline it is) can also impact tree health and fruit production, so test it and amend as necessary.
Topography: Ideally, your orchard should be on a gentle slope which helps with air and water drainage. Cold air and frost can settle in low spots, damaging trees, while hilltops can expose trees to wind.
Water Availability: Trees need regular watering, especially when they are young. Make sure your chosen location has a reliable water source for irrigation.
Wind Exposure: Wind can be harmful, particularly for young fruit trees. If your location is in a windy area, consider establishing windbreaks (rows of trees or shrubs) to protect your fruit trees.
Space Requirements: Consider the mature size of the trees when spacing them out. This allows for healthy root growth, reduces disease transmission, and allows for easier care and harvesting.
Pest and Disease Pressure: Check the history of the site. If it has a high incidence of pests or diseases, you may want to consider another site or be prepared to manage those issues.
Access: Think about how you will access the site for maintenance and harvesting. It should be relatively easy to get to with any equipment you need.
Future Growth: Plan for the future. You may want to add more trees or expand your orchard later, so consider how your chosen location will accommodate this.
Once you’ve considered these factors, you can start planning your orchard layout, taking into account pollination needs (some fruit trees need other trees for cross-pollination) and the growth habits of your chosen trees.
Consider working with a local extension service or a horticulture expert to ensure that your plans are suitable for your area and your chosen fruit trees.
Decide what types of trees you want to grow
Choosing apple tree varieties for your orchard can be an exciting process, but it also involves several considerations:
Climate Suitability: Different apple varieties thrive in different climates. Consider your USDA Hardiness Zone and the number of chill hours (hours below 45°F but above freezing) your area receives in the winter. Some apples need more chill hours to produce fruit. Also, if your area is prone to late frosts, choose varieties that bloom later to avoid losing your blossoms.
Disease Resistance: Some apple varieties are more resistant to common diseases like apple scab, fire blight, and cedar apple rust. Choosing disease-resistant varieties can save a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Pollination Requirements: Most apple varieties are not self-pollinating and will require a different apple variety to cross-pollinate. Be sure to select at least two different varieties that bloom at the same time to ensure successful pollination.
Purpose of the Fruit: Are you interested in eating fresh apples, making cider, baking, or preserving? Different apple varieties are better suited for different uses. For instance, ‘Golden Delicious’ is great for eating fresh, ‘Granny Smith’ is favored for baking, while ‘Dabinett’ and ‘Kingston Black’ are popular cider apples.
Harvest Time: Consider when you want to be harvesting your apples. By selecting early, mid, and late-season varieties, you can extend your harvest season.
Tree Size: Apple trees come in standard, semi-dwarf, and dwarf sizes. The tree size affects the amount of space you’ll need, the tree’s lifespan, and when it will start bearing fruit. Dwarf trees take up less space and bear fruit earlier, but they may not live as long as standard trees.
Taste and Texture: Of course, one of the most important factors is whether you enjoy the taste and texture of the apple. If possible, try apples of the varieties you’re considering before making your decision.
Hare some of the most common types of orchards:
Apple Orchards: Apples are among the most widely grown fruits and are popular due to their high demand and versatility.
Citrus Orchards: In warmer climates, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are common.
Stone Fruit Orchards: These include fruits like peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, and nectarines.
Berry Orchards: While not typically grown on trees, berries (like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) are often included in orchard discussions due to their similar cultivation methods.
Nut Orchards: Nut trees like almonds, walnuts, and pecans can also be profitable.
Pear Orchards: Like apples, there are many different varieties, and they can be used for fresh eating or in processed goods.
Exotic/Tropical Fruit Orchards: Depending on your climate, you might consider growing more exotic fruits like avocados, mangoes, or figs.
How much should you charge for orchard products?
Your prices should be based on market prices in your area, but also on your ongoing costs like: production costs, quality and variety of products (organically grown orchards are between 10%-20% more expensive than the same items not grown organically), market rates, and volume.
If you’re selling value-added products (like jams, cider, or baked goods made with your produce), consider the cost of the additional ingredients and labor, as well as the price of similar products in your area.
If you’re selling directly to consumers (like at a farm stand or farmers’ market), you can often charge a higher price than if you’re selling wholesale.
Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Identify your target market
Unless you decide to sell your products at your own farm stand, your target market is likely to be grocery store owners or managers. You can connect with them on LinkedIn or call on them directly.
Step 3: Brainstorm an Orchard Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “orchard” or “apple orchard”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Harvest Haven Orchards” and “Fruitful Fields” over “Applewood Acres” and “Cherry Blossom Groves”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation.
Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward.
Step 4: Create an Orchard Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: Summarize your business plan, outlining your goals, orchard’s location, and the types of fruits you plan to grow.
Business Overview: Provide an overview of your orchard, including its size, location, and the specific varieties of fruit trees you intend to cultivate.
Product and Services: Detail the fruits and related products or services you will offer, such as fresh fruit sales, jams, or guided orchard tours.
Market Analysis: Analyze the demand for locally grown fruits, identify your target customer base, and consider market trends, including preferences for organic produce.
Competitive Analysis: Identify and assess other orchards and fruit suppliers in your area, highlighting what distinguishes your orchard and your competitive advantages.
Sales and Marketing: Explain how you plan to market your orchard’s products, including branding, farm stand sales, farmers’ markets, and online presence.
Management Team: Introduce yourself and any key team members involved in running the orchard, emphasizing their relevant experience in agriculture.
Operations Plan: Describe the day-to-day operations of your orchard, including planting, maintenance, harvesting, and distribution logistics.
Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, pricing strategies, and operational expenses, to demonstrate the profitability of your business.
Appendix: Include supporting documents such as land purchase agreements, crop yield estimates, and marketing materials to provide additional context for your business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to orchards.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your orchard will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding an orchard business.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Here’s a general list of common permits and licenses that you may need:
Pesticide Applicator License: If you will be applying any regulated pesticides to your trees, you will likely need to be certified and licensed as a pesticide applicator.
Food Handler’s Permit: If you plan on selling your produce directly to consumers, you may need a food handler’s permit.
Seller’s Permit: This permit allows you to collect sales tax on items sold. Requirements can vary by state.
Health Department Permits: If you plan on selling value-added products made from your fruit, such as jams, jellies, or baked goods, you might need permits from your local health department.
Weights and Measures Permit: If you’re selling by weight, your scales may need to be inspected and approved by your local department of weights and measures.
Organic Certification: If you plan on selling your produce as organic, you’ll need to get your orchard certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your orchard business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked, yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Croptracker, or eOrchard, to manage your costs, irrigation, and harvests.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Create a website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales.
Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now” or “Order”. This can sharply increase purchases.
Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:
Farm-to-Table Collaborations: Partner with local restaurants, cafes, or farmers’ markets to supply them with fresh, locally grown fruits, emphasizing the farm-to-table concept and the quality of your produce.
Educational Events: Host workshops, orchard tours, or gardening classes to engage the community, educate them about fruit cultivation, and create a connection between consumers and your orchard.
Seasonal Promotions: Capitalize on the changing seasons by creating seasonal promotions, such as “U-Pick” events, special discounts during harvest time, or themed fruit baskets for holidays.
Community Sponsorship: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or community gatherings to increase your orchard’s visibility and build a positive association with your brand among locals.
Social Media Challenges: Launch social media challenges, like recipe contests or photo competitions featuring your orchard’s fruits, encouraging followers to share their creations and experiences.
Subscription Boxes: Offer subscription boxes that deliver a variety of fresh fruits directly to customers’ doors, providing a convenient and consistent supply while fostering customer loyalty.
Mobile Market Stalls: Take your orchard on the road by setting up mobile market stalls at high-traffic locations, giving people a taste of your produce without them having to visit the orchard.
Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with local influencers or food bloggers to create engaging content showcasing your orchard, reaching a broader audience and leveraging their followers’ trust.
Community Engagement: Actively engage with your local community through participation in local fairs, parades, or charity events, fostering a sense of community support and loyalty.
Environmental Sustainability: Highlight your orchard’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices, such as organic farming or sustainable packaging, appealing to eco-conscious consumers.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your orchard meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your orchard business could be:
Experience the juiciest and most flavorful fruits straight from our orchard
Discover a wide variety of hand-picked fruits grown in our lush orchard
Enjoy responsibly cultivated fruits nurtured with eco-friendly practices
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running an orchard business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in orchards for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in orchards. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
You will need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for an orchard business include:
Laborers – care for trees, harvest fruits
Salesperson – sell fruits to grocery stores
General Manager – inventory management, accounting
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Orchards take time to mature, but once they do, they can be quite profitable. It takes an investment and time to get started, but owning an orchard can be very rewarding. By starting an orchard, you’ll be providing nutritious treats to your community, living the farm lifestyle, and eventually making good money.
Now that you understand the business, you’re ready to start planting and watch your orchard grow into profits!
Orchard Business FAQs
Is an orchard profitable?
An orchard can be profitable, but it depends on various factors such as the type of fruits grown, market demand, operational costs, yield, and effective marketing strategies. However, it takes a significant amount of time for an orchard to get to the point of profitability.
What happens during a typical day at an orchard?
A typical day at an orchard involves a range of activities, including:
Cultivation and maintenance of fruit trees, such as pruning, irrigating, and fertilizing.
Monitoring tree health and addressing any pest or disease issues.
Harvesting ripe fruits and sorting them based on quality standards.
Packing and packaging fruits for distribution or sale.
Managing inventory and storage facilities to maintain fruit freshness.
Marketing and sales activities, such as promoting the orchard’s produce and engaging with customers.
Managing farm operations, including administration, equipment maintenance, and staffing.
What is the growth potential of an orchard?
The growth potential of an orchard depends on factors such as market demand, expansion opportunities, the ability to diversify fruit varieties, and effective business strategies. Orchards can expand their operations by increasing acreage, introducing new fruit varieties, developing value-added products (e.g., jams, ciders), and exploring direct-to-consumer channels such as farm stands, farmers markets, or online sales.
What type of business is an orchard?
An orchard can be considered an agricultural business, specifically within the fruit production sector. It involves cultivating and harvesting fruit-bearing trees, managing the orchard’s operations, and marketing the fruits to customers. Orchards can be independent family-owned businesses, part of larger farming operations, or even cooperative ventures among multiple growers.
How to Start an Orchard
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm an Orchard Name
Create an Orchard Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Licenses/Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run an Orchard - Start Making Money!
Orchard Business FAQs
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