July 13, 2010

How To Make Your "Cherry Farm" Worth Picking

cherries on a tree 250x166
There are lots of cherry farms (in the places that cherries grow). The fruit is identical. The prices are the same. The colour of the red barns is indistinguishable.

If you were the farmer, how would you get people to pick your farm?
This weekend I went to a cherry farm (Cherry Avenue Farms) for the first time since high school.

Here are the three lessons from the visit
  1. market
  2. organize
  3. make money


We passed many other farms on the route to our choice. The driving for the round trip took three hours. Even if the fruit were free, we'd have saved money at the grocery store or local farmers market.

There were 34 buses scheduled that day. The facilities were equipped to accommodate them.

The website has an intriguing story. The farm was established in 1799 and the seventh generation runs it on the original 100 acres. Content is up-to-date, which means you don't need to phone to see what fruit is available or the prices.


Given the volume of cars and buses, parking could have been horrible. Ample staff directed cars to vacant spots with barricades between rows. We parked on grass. A larger lot was gravel.

There were proper washrooms and shaded picnic tables.

We waited under a shaded tent for a tractor ride to the orchard. The ride and parking were free. Staff were pleasant throughout (as non-city-dwellers seem to be).

Trees were pruned to keep some fruit low enough for picking by hand (maybe this is normal?). Many ladders were also available.

Make Money

Because of the limited growing season, farms need to make enough money to last all year. Here were some techniques used:
  • a $4 entrance fee, guaranteeing some revenue from each visitor
  • megabaskets holding 10-15 pounds of cherries: we tend to empty our plates and fill our baskets
  • diversified crop: different fruit to pick all summer (golden plums, peaches and apricots next), giving reasons to return
There may have been a gift store, but we didn't visit it. This farm focused on efficiency. They wanted to catch more fish, rather than fewer bigger fish.

Since we didn't want many cherries, the price didn't matter much. We would have even paid more than retail to pick (and sample) fruit right from the tree. You can't get any fresher than that.

Most visitors would expect discounted prices that matched nearby farms. If you ignore the cost of your time and fuel, you can convince yourself that you're "saving" money.


The overall experience was wonderful. Beautiful weather. Delicious sweet cherries aplenty. This farm raised expectations, like the dentist. Maybe we'll return when the grapes are ripe.

Even a cherry farm can stand out. So can you and your business.


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