Have you been thinking of expanding your backyard production in order to sell your fruit?
So, maybe your backyard orchard is growing a bit too large and you have more fruit than you can use? If you are a good backyard fruit grower, then there are often times when you have more fruit than you can personally use. Have you ever found yourself asking what you should do with it? Some experienced backyard fruit growers start dreaming about “going commercial”. Jumping right into that may not be as easy as it sounds. There are a number of issues that you need to think about and plan for before taking that leap.
Starting things off, Grandpa is going to assume that you have the production end of fruit growing down, and just have more produce than you can eat, can, freeze or give away. Grandpa will also assume you are thinking of trying to make a little extra money from your bounty, but at the same time not trying to become a full-time fruit grower.
Selling your extra bounty can be as simple as setting up a card table in the front yard or as big as participating in a local farmer’s markets as a vendor. As a tiny back yard grower you are not likely to have a lot of extra throughout the season, but only a few periods when some varieties are going to ripen faster than you can use yourself. If you have lots of traffic passing in front of your house, then a simple card table “fruit stand” may allow you to get rid of the extra without having to spend a lot of time or energy in marketing your business. If you don’t think that you can sell it easily out the “front door”, then perhaps you should consider taking your excess to one of the local farmer’s markets that are most likely in your area. Beware though, you will probably have to invest extra time and energy into selling at the farmer’s markets, and that there may be strict rules for participating, product quality, or growing methods. If you can’t meet these standards, then perhaps you might want to consider “teaming up” with current vendors who may not have what you have, and also might be able to use your excess.
Forget about trying to sell your excess bounty to the local food store. Most of them are corporately owned and have strict regulations and restrictions on produce purchasing. They may spout the “locally grown” propaganda line, but when it comes to buying from small or “tiny” producers, they likely won’t because you may not be able to meet the standards that their “legal beagles” impose on their suppliers.
In you are producing more than you can use, and you want to be able to sell it, then keeping fresh fruit “fresh” usually requires some kind of cold storage. If you don’t have very much to store, an extra refrigerator may do the trick. But if you have more than the normal refrigerator will keep, then a larger cold space will be needed. Look out for deals on older walk-in coolers, large door refrigerators or beer cases from old stores, etc. Make sure to clean them up well with soap, water, and bleach in order to maintain a clean, wholesome environment. They should be able to keep consistent temperatures below 40F. For most fruits, storage temperatures should approach 32-36F. If you load too much “hot” product into a refrigerator unit, it will take several hours for the heat in the fruit will be removed. During that cool-down period, fruit is still ripening. It may not come out in as good a condition as you would have hoped for. You may need to consider harvesting your fruit a little more immature, so that it will keep for several days longer than fully mature fruit. You might also be able to build a small, well insulated room in a garage or shed with an over-sized air conditioning unit.
Keeping sufficient humidity in a refrigerator or cooler is of great concern also. Ordinary refrigerators will just suck the moisture out of most fruit if no extra source of maintaining humidity is available. Larger coolers will do the same, but might be easier to keep more humid because you might be able to keep the floor wet. Make sure that you can keep the humidity high enough in the unit to keep the fruit from shriveling. Misting might help, but be sure that you use sterile water and don’t allow the fruit to stay too wet or allow molds and fungus to grow.
Storage cleanliness is of vital importance! If the temperatures are too warm, fungal spores and bacteria will be your enemy! Store only cleanly harvested, well developed, properly matured fruit. Don’t allow your “wanting to save your produce” turn into a regular food illness crisis!
Food safety is one of the biggest liability issues facing “small home-grown producers”. Grandpa would hate to see fruit growers, such as yourself, in a food safety issue that could turn into a bankrupting affair. I am fairly sure if you ask your favorite lawyer for “permission” to start selling your produce, he will say “NO!”. We have all heard about food-borne illnesses that make the news. If you decide to sell your produce anywhere, or even give it away to the local food bank, make sure you have insured yourself. There are many other better ways of getting your “15 minutes of fame” than by being the target of a lawsuit because someone may only “think” they got sick from your apples or peaches!
Be sure to check with your local zoning or code enforcement officer; or the state agricultural/ health departments before getting too excited about going commercial. Needless to say, it isn’t easy receiving the permission needed or forgiveness given depending on the regulations that are currently in place. Either way, Grandpa wishes you all good luck on your business endevors, whether they are big or small.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact Grandpa, he would love to help!