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When Cooperative Extension Agents are asked about the costs in establishing an orchard they may refer the inquiry to an analysis that was done about 1992, by Robert L. Rackham, a now-retired OSU Extension Agent.  At that time Mr. Rackham predicted costs of $2,214.00 for the first year.  His expenses included overhead as well as variable expenses, and included services at established labor rates for that time.   His costs also make some assumptions that may or may not pertain to the individual inquiring. 

First, he assumes that the individual already owns his/her land, has a usable tractor with needed implements and has the storage facilities to store them as well as the required supplies.  If this is not the case then neither Mr. Rackham's analysis, nor the one that follows is valid.

The following analysis presents the two extremes in establishing an orchard using costs that are typical in the Northwest, in the year 2000.    First is the worst case -- hiring nearly everything done, and the second looks at the best case -- the DIY method (do-it-yourself) and skimping on some expenses.

No investment should be undertaken without a thorough understanding of the costs.  And, in addition, one must remember that what is given here is only the first year estimate.  Before, or by the time of the first harvest there may be other expenses including, but not limited to the cost of labor for pruning and orchard maintenance, a sweeper, a harvester, totes, a grading line, refrigeration facilities, a vehicle to get the crop to market, cost of marketing, ...

As one prominent grower was overheard saying, "You have to have a real job to support an orchard!"  While this may be an overstatement, there are some definite startup costs that should not be ignored.   Mr. Rackham estimated that the breakeven point would occur in the eighth year, and Northwest growers seem to be in agreement about that even today. 


Per Acre Cost to Establish a 10-Acre Orchard @ 78 Trees/Acre

Worst Case Best Case
Cost per Acre Cost per Acre
Soil Preparation - plow/till
     Hire work done @ $45/hr 123.75
     DIY -- Own tractor 0.00
Soil Tests
     Lab Analysis 18.40
     Best guess using soil survey maps 0.00
Dig 2' holes for trees
     Hire work done @ $2/hole 156.00
     DIY -- Rent bobcat w/auger 40.72
Plant trees -- labor 64.47 64.47
Cost of Trees
     @$15/per tree 1,170.00
     @$11.45/per tree 893.10
Irrigation
     BOCOIP* method:
          Trench for 1 main distribution line 16.70 16.70
          Water tank 39.90
          Trailer to haul it 146.80
          100 buckets 10.50
     Irrigation system -- Estimate 1,000.00
     Water Sensors (3+meter) 35.40 35.40
Drainage System 1,000.00
Deer Fencing
     DIY -- Elec wire above existing field fence 394.70
     No fencing
Other Supplies/Services 919.00 919.00
Opportunity Cost or Cost of Loan Interest @5% $244.90 $108.35

Total Costs Per Acre: 

$5,143.32 $2,274.94
* Bend-Over-Cry-Out-In-Pain Method

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