Small Farm Business Opportunity – How to Profit From Blueberry Sales

Blueberry Growers Class - Bluegrass Blueberries
Two Red Baskets of Blueberries
Blueberry Plant in container at Bluegrass Blueberries

How much can a mature blueberry plant produce?

A mature blueberry plant can produce anywhere from 5-20 lbs. For more information on this see this publication from the University of Kentucky and look at page 7. A mature blueberry plant is considered to be around 7 years old. Different yields will depend on many factors, such as, if the plant is healthy, if the plant has been fertilized properly, what variety of blueberry it is, if the plant is in full sun, if the plant was planted properly, if the plant has had adequate watering, ect.

How many blueberry plants can you put in an acre?

We suggest putting blueberry plants 4 feet apart in the rows, and having the rows 10 feet apart. This will allow you to have 1,089 blueberry plants in an acre. So this means if 1,000 of the plants survive from planting an acre once they reach maturity you would have a minimum of 5,000 pounds of blueberries a year. The maximum possible would be 20,000 pounds of blueberries a year. We feel like a reasonable expectation for Northern and Southern highbush, as well as Rabbit eye varieties is 8,000 – 9,000 pounds per acre.

How much can you sell blueberries for?

In our area Blueberries can be sold anywhere from $4.50 to $5.50 a pound at retail price. If you are certified organic you can generally sell for more than this.

How much can an acre of blueberries make a year?

Once your blueberry bushes reach maturity they could produce from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds a year. If they all sold for $5.00 a pound this means that you could bring in anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 an acre a year once they reach maturity. According to research done in 1994 by Robert E. Gough, Ph. D. the average blueberry farm brings in around 6,000 lbs an acre. (The Highbush Blueberry and It’s Management pg. 194) So if the soil is good and the care taking is good you should be able to expect at least 6,000 lbs an acre which would mean around $30,000.

What are all the costs involved in planting an acre of blueberry plants?

The four main up front costs involved with planting blueberries are the soil amendments, cost of plants, irrigation, and mulching. All these costs can vary depending on what part of the country you live in and how frugal you are with finding the least expensive route. Your initial investment could be anywhere from 10-20,000$ an acre. For one acre we generally recommend putting one 3.8 cubic bale of peat moss & four bags of 1.8 cubic bags of pine soil conditioner(pine fines) per every ten plants. It could be more or less depending on your soil and how much organic material is currently on your farm. This would be about 100 bales of peat moss and 400 bags of pine fines per acre. If you were to buy your soil amendments from us it be about $4,450 per acre (this does not include delivery). Generally, if your soil does not need organic ammendments, it will still need sulfur or other organic minerals to prepare your field. For more information about this “click here”.

Your irrigation costs can vary depending on what kind of system you use. We recommend using a drip irrigation system which would cost around $750. That only includes the actual drip lines that would lay down your blueberry field. If you were to pump out of a pond, or connected it to the county water, you would need to figure your PVC line, hook up, and/or water pump cost.

If you were to buy an acre of bare root 12-18 inch blueberry plants from Bluegrass Blueberries it would cost about $4,500 for an acre of blueberry plants. For planting 1 gallon blueberry plants it would cost about $5,750 an acre. For 2 gallon blueberry plants it would cost about $8,500 an acre, and for 3 gallon blueberry plants it would cost about $12,000 for an acre of blueberry plants. For more information on our wholesale pricing “click here”.

There are many options for mulching blueberry plants. The best kind of mulch is something that it somewhat acidic such as pine bark or pine needles. However, many people use grass clippings, straw, or wood chips. We have seen that if you use something other than pine mulch it is best to mix it with aged compost. Cost of mulching will vary depending upon what you decide to do. Generally about 80-100 yards of mulch will cover an acre of plants. This can cost anywhere from $750 to $2,000 in our area. Many times tree cutting companies will dump wood chips at your farm for free.

Some information from the University of Kentucky on the costs and return of blueberry farming can be found here

How long before my blueberry farm would be profitable?

This would largely depend on how old the plants are that you buy. A seven year old blueberry plant is considered mature, but sometimes ground shock can play a part in the development of your blueberry plants. If you plant 2 year old 12-18 inch bushes it would take 6-8 years to reach full production. If you buy a 1 gallon plant it could take 5-7 years to reach full production, a 2 gallon plant could take 4-6 years to reach full production, and a 3 gallon plant could take 3-5 years to reach full production. These time frames are considering that someone is taking good care of the blueberry production and maintaining it well.

What are some of the maintenance costs for growing blueberry bushes?

Maintenance costs include mowing, weeding, fertilizer, fungicide, insecticide, picking blueberries, pruning, mulching, and marketing. All these costs can vary greatly depending if you are able to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. One maintenance cost that many fail to invest in, but is extremely important is yearly granular and foliar fertilizer. If you treat organically you can expect your cost of this to be around $900 dollars a year. That does not include labor or equipment needed to apply.

As you can see a blueberry farm venture can be a very profitable and rewarding venture. However, it takes hard work and time before it gets to that point. If you would like more information about how to start a blueberry farm please contact our office at (270) 432-5836. Or sign up for one of our Free Blueberry Classes

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