Most people who grow fruit at home do it for the sheer pleasure and satisfaction of growing some of their own food.
They may also be dreaming of self-sufficiency, wanting to teaching their kids where food comes from, or just understand that the more food we can grow at home, the lower our environmental footprint on the planet—all great reasons for having a fruit tree.
But imagine if you could also make some extra cash from your fruit trees – does that sound appealing?
It’s easier than you may think – and we’ve put together our top 10 tips to get you on the right track.
Here in Australia we’re all familiar with Farmers Markets, but probably don’t associate them at all with backyard growers, because they’re mainly used as an outlet for farmers, with, well, …. farms.
On our study tour of America last year we noticed a different approach, where not just farmers but passionate gardeners on every scale put up their shingle on fruit stands, market tables and farm stalls everywhere.
Here in Australia conditions are different with our much smaller population and more restrictive planning regulations (commerce seems to be not only allowed but encouraged everywhere and anywhere in America), but much of what we saw fits 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.
And 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 it still only supplies a tiny percentage of food to a small percentage of the community.
There’s a huge and largely untapped market of consumers who are increasingly interested in buying locally produced food.
So, how do you turn your passion for growing fruit in your backyard into a source of cash?
Here’s our top 12 tips:
- Feed yourself first (including preserving some of your summer crop for winter). The more of your own food you grow, the less income you need. Plus food you’ve grown yourself is more nutrient-dense and satisfying than any food you’ll ever buy.
- Look for your local food swap, or set one up. Even informal exchanges with friends and family can save you a lot of money, and a growing number of suburbs and towns now have some version of Local Economic (or Exchange) Trading System (LETS) or other local, non-cash economy that can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
- Value-add. Aim to use everything you grow in some way, and particularly to turn your low-value produce into something delicious: jam, vinegar, cider, juice, baked goods, pickles, preserves, sweets, pies…the list is limited only by your imagination.
- Focus on quality, both in your growing and your presentation. This is exactly what the Grow Great Fruit program is all about, so if you’re serious about making some extra cash from your fruit trees, we definitely recommend you focus on improving the quality and output from your fruit trees.
- Diversify and offer choices to maximise 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.
- Know your stuff – for example, the name of the variety you’re selling, or the technique you’re using to make cider. Become the expert.
- Be transparent – for example, don’t make up BS excuses for why it’s “too hard” to grow organically. Just be honest about what you do and why.
- Find and know your market(s). There are SO many ways to connect with potential customers these days, and thanks to social media (see #9) many are free or low cost. In the post-COVID era online sales are particularly important, but 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 (though 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’s a a lot of ways to manage the logistics of getting the food you grow to the people who want to eat it.
- Connect with your customers through social media, particularly Instagram (which 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.
- Team up – a partnership with family, friends or other like-minded people who want to make some side-cash from their gardening hobby can increase productivity, profitability, and most importantly, fun!
- 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.
- 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 (eg, using a registered kitchen), there’s still many ways to legally and safely grow and process food for sale.
In a world where many people are completely disconnected from where their food comes from, micro-growers can play an important role.
Not only can you help feed your community with your excess produce, but you’ll also be setting a great example of how to grow your own food, as well as making some extra cash and proving that money really can grow on trees!