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Would you love to make some money from your fruit trees?

Most people who grow fruit at home do it for the sheer pleasure and satisfaction of growing their own food. Or just because they love gardening.

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You might grow fruit because you’re dreaming of self-sufficiency. Maybe you want to teach your kids where food comes from. Growing food at home certainly lowers your environmental footprint.

These are undoubtedly all great reasons for having a fruit tree.

But imagine if you could also make some extra cash from your fruit trees – would that be useful?

Berries and apples for sale at a local market

Developing the right mindset to make money from your fruit trees

Here in Australia, we’re all familiar with Farmers Markets. However, most of us probably don’t associate them at all with backyard growers. They’re mainly used as an outlet for farmers, with, well, …. farms.

When we did a study tour of America we noticed a different approach.

We noticed that not just farmers, but passionate gardeners on every scale put up their shingles on fruit stands, market tables, and farm stalls everywhere.

A typical roadside stall in New England
A roadside stall outside a suburban house in New England, USA

We can’t ignore the fact that here in Australia conditions are quite different.

We have a much smaller population and more restrictive planning regulations. For better or worse (often worse), commerce seems to be not only allowed but encouraged everywhere and anywhere in America.

But still, much of what we saw fit nicely with our 20 years of experience selling fruit in Australia.

Making your entire living from fruit growing is a big commitment.

But if you have a passion for growing and making, it’s not too much of a stretch to turn your hobby into what Scott Pape (author of the Barefoot Investor) calls a “side hustle” and earn some extra cash.

Toffee apples with variations!
Toffee apples with multiple variations!

How small is too small?

If you think you’re too small a grower, or the market for “local/organic/home-grown” is saturated, think again.

In Australia, farmers’ markets are a rapidly growing and highly successful sector. But they still only supply a tiny percentage of food to a small percentage of the community.

That means there’s a huge and largely untapped market of consumers who are increasingly interested in buying locally produced food.

Jams and preserves for sale at the local weekly farmers market
Jams and preserves for sale at the local weekly farmers market

So, how do you turn your passion for growing fruit in your backyard into a source of cash?

Our top 12 tips for making money from your fruit trees

1. Feed yourself first (including preserving some of your summer crops for winter).

The more of your own fruit you grow, the less income you need to buy fruit that someone else grew. Plus, the food you’ve grown yourself is usually more nutrient-dense and satisfying than any food you’ll ever buy. (This also means you’ll be healthier, which means you’ll save money on health care!)

2. Look for your local food swap, or set one up.

Even informal exchanges with friends and family can save you a lot of money. A growing number of suburbs and towns now have some version of Local Economic (or Exchange) Trading System (LETS). This is just one type of local, circular, non-cash economy that can make a massive difference to your bottom line.

3. Value-add.

Aim to use everything you grow in some way. Particularly try to turn your low-value produce into something delicious and usable or saleable. Jam, vinegar, cider, juice, baked goods, pickles, preserves, sweets, pies…the list is limited only by your imagination.

4. Focus on quality

This applies to your growing and your presentation. This is exactly what the Grow Great Fruit program is all about. If you’re serious about making some extra cash from your fruit trees, we definitely recommend you focus on improving both the quality and output of fruit from your fruit trees.

5. Diversify and offer choices.

Diversification maximises your profitability. Different types of fruit or other produce, different varieties, different price points, different value-added products – all will help you sell more. We explain how to plan your trees for maximum variety and a long harvest in Grow a Year’s Supply of Fruit.

6. Know your stuff.

For example, know the name of the variety you’re selling, or the technique you’re using to make cider. Become the expert.

7. Be transparent.

Don’t make up BS excuses for why it’s “too hard” to grow organically, for example (we’ve heard them all). Just be honest about what you do and why.

8. Find and know your market(s).

There are SO many ways to connect with potential customers these days. Thanks to social media (see #9) many are free or low cost. In the post-COVID era, online sales are particularly important. Accredited Farmers Markets are essential food providers and so most have been able to continue to trade throughout the pandemic. However it’s also easy to set up cashless and contactless sales channels through farm stands, local school networks, CSA, or deliveries. Just be careful to do your costings on these first, as offering delivery can quickly eat into your bottom line. For online sales, platforms like the Open Food Network provide a purpose-built website for you to sell your produce. There are a lot of ways to manage the logistics of getting the food you grow to the people who want to eat it.

9. Connect with your customers through social media

Instagram devours food photos. Social media marketing is really simple. Just tell your story of why you love growing food and how people can buy it. It just takes some care, time, and dedication. Over time, you’ll build a strong following of loyal customers.

10. Team up

Thinks about a partnership with family, friends, or other like-minded people who want to make some side-cash from their gardening hobby. This can increase productivity, profitability, and most importantly, fun!

11. Be creative

What do you have/grow/make that somebody wants to buy? Or what “waste” products could you source from other farmers and repurpose? Think outside the box, and don’t be scared to try something different.

12. Set some goals and have a “can-do” attitude.

While you’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress by staying within the relevant laws (e.g., using a registered kitchen), there are still many ways to legally and safely grow and process food for sale.

Many people are completely disconnected from where their food comes from. Micro-growers can play an important role in fixing this.

You might be able to help feed your community with your excess produce. You’ll also be setting a great example of how to grow your own food.

Plus, you could be making some extra cash and proving that money really can grow on trees!

A small orchard stall selling peaches, maple syrup and maple walnuts - yum!
A small orchard stall selling peaches, maple syrup, and maple walnuts – yum!

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