Although each of the growers I talked to has his or her own take on a pricing structure, they all provided some solid tips if you’re struggling with your own pricing decisions.
Phil Quinn, of Quinn Farm in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, QC, Canada: “Don’t be afraid to overcharge. You’re charging for the privilege to come out to the farm for an afternoon and enjoy berries. They’re going to be stuffing their face, so you’ve got to charge accordingly. They’re going to be eating berries, they’re going to be coming out with overflowing baskets. Just charge accordingly and let them do it. It’s awesome, don’t let them get to you. Don’t sweat it.”
Andrew Thiessen of Thiessen Orchards in Leamington, ON, Canada: Take a leap of faith and trust you’re providing more than just the grocery store is. You’ve got to charge more. To do the 7 days a week for however many months you do it, you want to be rewarded financially. You can always lower your price once you get into the season, it’s always easier to go down than up. If you’re finding a fair bit of complaining, then you go back a little bit on the pricing.”
Cynthia Chiles of Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, VA: “Understand it’s going to take a little more staff than you think it might. Certainly you can plant dwarf or smaller trees and shrubs to pick off of. A lot of times our trees are older and they’re pretty big. We catch a lot of people trying to climb trees and shake trees and they get that one apple in their hand and 10 more fall to the ground. Just prepare to be surprised, but also prepare to give customers a really great experience. We get so many people in from the city and they’re always so amazed by the bounty and the view and being in the country. You do make a lot of memories for people and that’s pretty gratifying. It’s a lot of work, with some frustration, but it’s really rewarding in the end.”
Mo Tougas of Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, MA: “Twenty years ago there were 12 here doing pick-your-own strawberries in this market and right now there are only two or three of us. Apples have obviously become more profitable to do U-pick, because there’s a following. It’s a tradition in the fall, and we’ve managed to get price up in there high enough, that even with a 50% loss that the customer causes, we can still make money on it. With strawberries it’s a lot harder because the clientele has changed over the years. They don’t do the thorough picking. There’s a tremendous amount of waste in strawberries, so quite a few people have dropped out of it. We do it because it gets the season going and it allows us to be open for pick-your-own for 5 months. If I had to gear up today and buy irrigation, and the specialized machinery for strawberries, I’d have to think about it pretty hard.”