Agricultural Alternatives: Apple Production
Apples may be grown in many parts of the country and lend themselves well to part-time farming operations. The initial investment for apples can be high depending on the production method chosen, land preparation, and initial investment in the trees. A commercial orchard is expected to be productive for at least 20 years, so this investment will be spread over a longer period of time than many crops. Depending on the amount of land devoted to the orchard, production method, and tree size, equipment costs may be held to a minimum. If the orchard is a part of an existing agricultural operation, you may already have much of the needed equipment. Apple production will require many hours of labor, depending on the size of the orchard. Land preparation and planting will require at least two people. During the summer months, the orchard will require mowing, multiple pesticide applications, and fruit thinning. Depending on the mix of varieties and orchard size, additional labor may be required at harvest time. Although you may be able to accomplish these tasks with family members and local part-time labor, use of hired labor may also be necessary. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service, more than 5,000 farms with almost 85,000 acres of apples are located in the northeastern United States. Pennsylvania produces 400 to 500 million pounds of apples per year and ranks fourth in the nation for apple production. The majority of the production is centered in the southcentral part of Pennsylvania (due in large part to the topography of the land), but apples can be found commercially throughout the Commonwealth.