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What To Expect When Opening an Orchard in California

With nearly 14,000 acres of orchards and over 100 million dollars of annual revenue, California is one of the top apple producers in the United States. The sunny climate and rich soil make the Golden State an ideal setting for any aspiring apple farmer.

However, as with any agriculture business, there are plenty of obstacles you need to be aware of when starting your orchard. Learn how to navigate these challenges and make the most of your budding business with this quick overview of what to expect when opening an orchard in California.

Land Considerations

Apple trees are hardy; they can grow successfully in nearly any climate. In California, many orchards thrive near the coast or at foothill elevations—places where the trees can enjoy plenty of sunshine, rich soil, cool winters without hard freezes, and temperate summers.

Apple trees are suitable for many types of land, but you still need to consider factors like spacing and sunlight availability on your property. Don’t make your trees compete for light or soil nutrition. Space them out to give both the boughs and roots room to flourish. Avoid planting in the shade, too. This might mean needing to purchase land without any existing trees or other large vegetation on it, or investing in tree removal to prep the land for your apple trees. These considerations help your apple trees flourish, especially during the early years before they’re established enough to produce a large crop.

The Growing Timeline

Unlike other crops, you can’t plant apple trees in the spring and enjoy a harvest by fall. Apple trees take two to three years just to establish themselves. They start producing fruit after four or five years, but it is only after year eight or nine that you’ll start to see a significant crop. Furthermore, market trends are ever-changing, and a variety that is popular now might be on the decline in a few years.

Planning ahead is the key to finding success with your orchard. If you’re going to plant older trees, make sure you do so when they’re dormant to avoid interrupting the growing season. Take care of young trees and give them plenty of sunshine and space to help them flourish.

Pest Problems

Pests are, unfortunately, a major part of what to expect when opening an orchard in California. Both small animals and insects pose a risk to orchards—especially young orchards. Young apple trees that are just starting to bear fruit are particularly vulnerable to gophers, rabbits, squirrels, moles, birds, and deer. Traps can keep smaller animals at bay, while proper fencing and metal guards help deter squirrels, deer, and birds. You can also use statues of owls, snakes, or cats to deter birds, but be sure to move them every few days to keep them effective.

When it comes to insect control, pesticides can help protect your crop. However, take care not to spray the trees until after they’re mature enough to bear fruit.

Proper financing can help you prepare for any costs—expected or unexpected—that you might encounter with your orchard. Visit Farm Plus Financial to learn more about our ag loans in California and find the help you need to make your orchard a success.