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direct market apple pricing

Posted by Michael Phillips 
direct market apple pricing
October 15, 2013 04:12AM
Let's do it ... price fixing to the nth degree amongst growers! Seriously. It's time to talk about what we charge to succeed as community orchardists growing healthy fruit.

This year I opted for simplicity. Select grade is $2 a pound, and this on the basis of volume. A half-peck is $10; a peck is $20; a half-bushel is $40. Varieties can be mixed at these prices. Buy a bushel of a single variety and I discount 10%, thus the cost is $72. Note: I did not raise the price for small volume purchases. I actually don't know the extent this was appreciated but it felt far more legit to me. Organic apples in the local supermarket retail at $2.99 a pound regardless. Come to the farm and save 33%, no? Realize full flavor, savor nutrient density, and be as local as it gets.

The one exception is Honeycrisp, just because of the ga-ga factor and thus the willingness of people to pay more for this exceptional variety when grown in Zones 3-5. Our pricing for Honeycrisp at Lost Nation Orchard is $2.50 a pound. I followed the "corporate approach" here, buying tote bags that hold 4 pounds in comparison to the half-peck bags that hold 5 pounds. I pointed this out again and again. And people gladly scooped up the totes for $10 ... mostly not grasping there was a difference. It worked that the "small bag charge" appeared totally like the half-peck price for all other varieties.

Utility grade is priced at $1 a pound. Do the math: a peck is now $10, a half-bushel is now $20. Varieties are mixed in the utility bin based on "generous fungal spotting" and other aesthetic issues. These fruit are always of decent size, otherwise smaller apples are cider grade. Those who wish to make sauce and bake pies love the deal. Those who can deal with farmer grade -- being what we growers eat as a matter of course -- can save half on the cost of fresh organic eating apples by picking from the bin selectively.

What are you charging this apple season? And what do your people think?

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/25/2013 02:27PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: apple pricing
October 15, 2013 02:56PM
Here is what we are doing a Westwind Orchard this season. We are mostly Pick your Own, so the 3 different size bags were 1/2 peck for $10, 1 peck $19, 1/2 bushel $32. I would say that 3-4% of people commented on high prices, and I just replied that we were just a couple of dollars higher on the bigger bag then the closest conventional orchard. 97% thanked us to be farming Organically, or as I would say Beyond Organic.

Michael, here are my prices for buying apples already picked by the pound in my store ... a little note, these apples have been hand scrubbed and washed from Sooty Blotch and Flyspecks, so lots of labor time.
CrimsonCrisp $3/lb. I had 10 bushels, and sold out within 2 weeks. People went nuts for this apple.
All other varieties (Macs, Cortland, Spartans, Golden, Macoun etc) $2.50/lb.

Our other grade of apples is the cider apples, and as you might know, NYS doesn't allow to sell unpausterized cider, so we sold the apples to the customers and have them make their own apple cider with our vintage press and out assistance(I had to keep one person full time on the cider press). The price for those apples was $1/lb.. 20lb of apples made approx 1 gallon, very expensive cider, but priceless experience for families and kids.

[Editor's Note: We have a thread going on washing off sooty blotch where the labor challenge presented by hand washing select grade apples can be addressed. Thanks.]

Westwind Orchard
Zone 5b in New York

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/15/2013 03:15PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: apple pricing
October 16, 2013 05:42PM
Hello! Our apples sell for $2.50 a lb, and we also rub/polish the apples (15 seconds per apple, easy to do when standing at the farmer market waiting for customers) so they look beautiful. We sell seconds with minor blemishes such as early season curc stings that healed over or blotch that didn't rub off for $1.50 a lb and people love those for pies. People don't seem to hesitate so far at the price, we feel we are experiementing though as we build the market. We sell Libertys and Delicious now, people here really like the Libertys. We are looking forward to soon selling our Ashmeads, Cox Pippins, Winecrisp, Honeycrisps, Candycrisp, and Haralsons - they don't have enough quantity yet for us to move into the world with volume. We sell all varities at the same price for now. As we have more quanitity we may need to move the price down, not sure yet. Organic local fruit here is very hard to find, especially the soft tree fruits, we gert premium prices for our peaches and plums.

At local markets in the Ann Arbor Michigan area, which has a high organic-interested and relatively affluent population, organic apples go for $2.00 to $3.50 a lb. But interstingly enough the same apples from the same vendor at a farmer market can fetch a higher price than at the local produce-only store which is counter-intutive. But the produce managers I know here at Wholefoods and that produce store have expressed their frustration that the farmers markets can sell worse product a ta higher price as customers who are willing to pay for the farmer market experience. The minute those customers set foot into the produce store they demand higher quality and lower prices (10-20%). That said, I have been appalled at some of the organic apples I have seen lately at other local grocery stores this year - it almost looks like they have come from unmanaged wild trees, small sized, bad insect damage, and not stored properly, the apples are soft.

Makes our product which is terrific stand out so I am not complaining.

I have been noticing that Zestar apples, conventionally grown, are fetching $4.00 - $4.50 a lb here. Our Honeycrisps are not yet in enough production to sell but I look forward to upcharging for that variety when they are online! I will check out the blotch post thanks for that.
Re: apple pricing
October 18, 2013 12:06AM
Good thread topic

Some of my highlights this season . . .
I got $2.50/lb for my Ashmead's this year. I also packaged up 3 Ashmead's, 3 Northern Spy and 3 Calville Blanc's as a 9 apple "Heirloom Pie Pack" for $10. The weight varied on the pie pack, but they sold like hot cakes.

As Susan said for her apples, I am also at a flat rate for all my other varieties at $2/lb. I only marketed 1st quality fruit this year. All the 2nds went to friends and family for pies, sauce and cider.

Some Customer feedback:
1) Majority of my customers this year commented on their excitement to have a local source for heirloom apples
2) I had a number of folks inquire about more utilitarian fruit vs the 1st quality/fancy I was selling. I have taken clear note of this for the 2014 season.
3) I had people perk up when I mentioned that I had cider specific apples available.
4) Numerous folks specifically asked to be added to an emailing list to be made aware of when the various apples will be available next season. Many expressed a wish to order in advance. . . .in which case I could pick them and have them ready for a will call. . . not too shabby.
5) Lastly, I had the opportunity to share the concepts of holistic apple orcharding vs industrial organic and/or conventional approaches. It made a noticeable impression on a number of folks and that made me feel good.

Honeycrisp command a premium here on the West Coast too. My honeycrisp are not producing yet, but I managed to snap a photo from a popular local grocery co-op here in Grass Valley, CA (The Briar Patch) and they were getting a whopping $4.29/lb for their organic honeycrisp apples. . . They were also getting between $3.29 and $4.00 per pound for every other variety they were selling too. . . stunning, but inspiring at the same time.

Ready for this??!!??

Now, I didnt see this myself, but, a good friend said that the Briar Patch market was selling organic Pink Pearl apples around the 1st of September for $6/lb!!! SIX DOLLARS a pound! According to my friend, they were flying off the shelf too. They had someone cutting them up and letting folks see & sample them 1st. This is not local fruit, but rather fruit sourced from the Sebastopol area of CA which sells it via farm stands at $2 to 2.50/lb. . . supply and demand at its finest huh?!

Gopher Hill Apples
Zone 8 in California

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/22/2013 02:32AM by Paul Weir.
Re: apple pricing
October 20, 2013 02:45PM
We sell part of our harvest through an apple CSA and get $120 for 7 pecks of apples and 5 half gallons of cider over 6 deliveries. Grade is utility and select, with mixed varieties. People seem to like that a lot. A nice thing about this is that we can include a few fruit from varieties for which we only have a few trees like Chestnut Crab and Hudson's Golden Gem, and customers get to try a wide range of flavors and textures.

We also sell by the bushel a @ $70 for selects and $45-50 for utility depending on quantity. The bushel price is the same for our select grade sales to a local coop. We tried a "processing" grade--our cider apples--@ $20/bu, but I think it confuses the issue with the utility grade, so I think we will just sell those to people who specifically ask for them. We have thought about raising the price for Honeycrisps, but this year they all went to the CSA. We are grading to high standards and also feel that our select grade fruit compares very well with the non-local organic apples sold in our area. We have a large crop (for us) and with a new cooler that holds 35 degrees and high humidity, we hope to supply the coop well through the winter with Idared and Melrose.

Hemlock Grove Farm
Zone 5 in New York
Re: direct market apple pricing
October 28, 2013 06:40PM
We sold select fruit at the farm for the same price we wholesaled it (to retail outlets), 2.10 a pound. We had best luck with totes in this regard. Most of the fruit, however went via the you-sort route, at 1.75 a pound, which included all grades. This saves a lot of labor and cleaning for us, and allows the customer to buy exactly what they deem worth the per pound price. The benefit comes in both saved labor and customer satisfaction, and folks seems to take care not to bash them around. It allowed those on fixed incomes to get tree picked certified organic fruit for a price competitive with conventional, as long as they took alittle time to sort for us. This was a first for us with this method with the general public and the response was very positive. I as also surprised at how many apples with flaws were chosen. My instinct is that many people understand that blemishes are ok, as long as they don't feel they are being cheated. When they make the choice, apple by apple, they are more understanding.

Interesting in the price quest, is the high markup in the crispies and crunchies. It goes without saying that a lot of growers will plant honeycrisp after honeycrisp, pixie crunch after pixie crunch until the bottom falls out of the market like every other commodity. I worry that as we all try to make a living, all that variety out there will again fade into obscurity as we look for the higher price, or simply giving customers what they ask for. I am tempted too to regraft and cash in. But, then again..this fall we had call after call for honeycrisp (fresh fruit). We had our fall apple tasting which of course included honeycrisp, and 140 others, and then had the typical tree sales following (over the next few weeks). Of all the folks who attended and were now showing up to buy trees, notes in hand from the tasting, we sold exactly..0..honeycrisps. Go figure.

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: direct market apple pricing
November 07, 2013 05:45AM
Sigh.... I typed a long response here and then hit post and the thing browser or something crashed and it got lost.

This is our favorite topic right now because we will have to figure out the best way to maximize our income next season. We sell through several markets and they each have a different pricing structure.

We sell at 2 Farmers Markets per week in San Jose, CA and sell all varieties for $2.50 per pound or 3 pounds for $6. We also have a "discount table" where the apples are $1.50 per pound or 3 pounds for $4. All apples are certified organic and we have about 10 varieties so far. The ones on the discount table are smaller than 125 count (2.25 inches) or larger than an 88 count. These are ones we can't sell as easily to our other customers except for juice, so even at the lesser price it is absolutely worth it.

Then we sell a few of our main varieties wholesale through a packing house and broker. We figured we would not be able to pack and sell 60 bins of Red Delicious ourselves! The apples get sold for between 30 and 40 dollars a box, but the brokerage fees and packing charges come out to about $14 per box, so we aren't making that much compared to local sales.

Our local customers include my neighbor's CSA and restaurant route that he supplements with fruit and two other businesses that do home or office box delivery like a CSA but assembled from several growers. My neighbor only pays about $1.00 per pound but he moves a lot of apples (about 1200 pounds per week), he doesn't care what size they are, and we can send them in re-usable totes and avoid packaging charges. He also lets us keep stuff in his cooler early in the season which is a godsend. The other home delivery businesses want medium sized, tray pack apples and we charge $1.20 to 1.40 per pound for them.

The leftovers go into juice bins (I guess what you call utility grade). We sell either to Martinelli who only pays $250 per ton for organic, or to two local wineries that are making hard cider this year for $350 per ton.

We have a couple of other small customers but that's the idea. The FArmers market it way more money per pound but has it's own share of expenses. We will sell there until Thanksgiving and then will pencil everything out to see what worked best.


Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California
Re: direct market apple pricing
November 29, 2013 07:03PM

If my math is correct, on the 250 per ton that is about 5 bucks a bushel. Does that cover the picking labor and other costs?

Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard
Zone 3 in Vermont
Re: direct market apple pricing
March 14, 2014 04:56AM
It is hard to say if it covers picking costs or not because they are picked at the same time as our first quality apples but then sorted out at the packing line. The picking costs would have to be averaged between the two prices. Out of 61 bins of Red Delicious we had 5 bins of juice apples, so that is a pretty good packout and it is nice to have a home for the juice since we are not set up to make juice ourselves. The only other cost is for trucking it about 3 miles away to the juice company.

Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California
Re: direct market apple pricing
April 27, 2014 06:59PM
So sorry to have not paid attention to this thread earlier. I see California and New York has pretty similar pricing. I too, like Zea pick, almost all the fruit to be sorted first for select (No 1's) utility (No 2's) and juice. Most years there is a certain amount of trees with too much scab or didn't have time to thin which get picked right into juice bins. I love hearing talk about pecks and bushels--all still legal lingo--but trying that out to Californians caused more explanations they we had time for--I'm all for education--but 40 lbs or 5 lbs make life less trying, at least for customers. Pricing, ah, just what will the market bear? At our fruit stand we have 2 bucks a pound (Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Bartlett, Mac's, and other "normal" types) and 3 bucks a pound (Ashmeads, Bramley, Pink Pearl, Russetts and on and on). There is another rarefied air only at the SF Farmers Market 4 bucks for Wicksons and such delights as Kerry Irish Pippin. Here in the hills 2 1/2 hours from SF we have very little percentage of bushel sales or even 1/2 bushels (4 pecks?). So we just let people buy by the pound--weigh it themselves and make change--self service Mon-Fri and "help" them on weekends. On the wholesale end (around 40% fresh sales) all apple varieties bring at least 1.20 lb with Pink Pearl, Bramley, and Wickson bringing over 2.00. After the wholesaler mark up I'm sure those end up being more than 4.00 a pound, Paul, but 6.00 for Pink Pearls is a new record--I think. Local sales around 20% higher than wholesale and our "restaraunt" run utility fruit 80 cents to 1.25 lb. The fruit stand apples are a mix of No 1's and 2's leaning towards 1's unless having a bad complexion year then leaning towards 2's. We also have "free fruit box" stuff that sat out too long at the stand or wormy ones we missed the first time and the inevitable dropped apple that got put back in the sale box. I once (only once had someone complain about the quality of the free fruit! Several people come for free stuff for their horses.
We don't have hardly any cannery sales as we process or have processed (pastuerized juice) all of the culls. Maybe on a big crop year I sell a few tons and the price is getting close to 300 a ton--where it should have been 20 years ago--another story. In the now up and running West Coast Hard Cider Revolution (and Brandy) there are 500 a ton offers for specific varieties and I have heard of 1,000 offered for Wicksons.
Re: direct market apple pricing
August 06, 2016 08:49AM
We are doing our first farmers market of the apple season this Sunday and so I just re-read this thread about pricing. I think I am going to go with 4 price levels this season and I am interested in any of your opinions. In the past we have been at 2.50 per pound for all varieties of first quality apples, with 3 pounds for $6.50. This year I am thinking of keeping that price for "main crop" varieties (including Gravensteins, Gala, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Newtown Pippin, and Fuji), and then charging $3 per pound for "specialty" varieties, which will be all the other heirloom, rare, and new varieties which we have in quite limited amounts from young trees.

Then we will continue with our "value" price apples, which are first quality but either smaller than 2.25 or larger than 72 count at $1.50 per pound or 3 pounds for $4. Farmers market customers love these for kids or cooking. Lastly I am thinking of two utility grades, one for retail customers who juice or cook at 0.75 per pound, and the others that are only good for the wholesale cider bin which we now get $450 per ton for.

I am trying to maximize our returns by using all the apples in the right markets, but I am worried that it is a little too complicated. It would mean farmers market customers would have 3 price levels instead of 2, but in the urban area markets I think they can cope. Any thoughts?

Fruitilicious Farm
Zone 9b in California
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