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It's that time again...
04-December-2004 | Ron Pickrell

Posted on 12/04/2004 1:26:23 PM PST by pickrell

For many of the farseeing, the 15th of April is in sight once again, and the time fast approaches to face the recurrent and inescapable question- that of whether or not to plant.

For those new to Orchard-World, many variables, both hidden and obvious, will come into play. It is to that audience that I wish to speak. School is coming to an end for you, and as you prepare to step into the workplace, you'll want to maximize the chance of your orchard reaching- well, let's face it- fruition, by learning to compare apples to apples. To do so will necessitate an understanding of the cost-benefit analysis of the marketplace.

The several sides of the equation fall naturally into: A...the costs of producing your apples B...the price that you will receive, and C...of any profit left over, how much you will be allowed to retain.

Recently, alarming trends have been exposed by the media, detailing the vast disparaty of apple quality. Regulations have accordingly been implemented to insure equal outcome, and to thereby standardize the product. By regulating the allowable non-circularity of the fruit, maximum color deviation from the government-determined ideal, maximum height of limbs from the ground (thereby re-empowering the differently-heighted pickers), and other necessary quality of life issues, a more homogenous crop is being assured.

Since complying under duress with these mandates, growers have complained that the traits now genetically selected against, such as flavor and pest-resistance, have suffered grievously. "The inherent advantage of variety...is being banished," a grower complained.

In the words of an ACLU (Apple Conformity Litigation Unit) spokesbeing, "Some reactionary running-dogs will complain about anything. We are, after all, the champions of variety, as long as it conforms to dictates."

Another consideration is that of the little buzzing parasites which will take an increasing toll of the fruits of your labors, as you begin to achieve returns on your investment. The collective phylum name of these creatures is the "Attornus Vampirus". These pests do the most damage where the fruit is heavy and they can descend thereon in swarms. Growers have described the problem as financial tort-sure. Those persons who recommend spraying, recommend a product likely to also control the grubs. It doesn't actually kill the grubs, but they metamorphosize into frequent-fliers, instead.

One of the drawbacks of spraying to control these pests is the argument for what good they do. This usually is presented as a safeguard against defective and dangerous apples. In the recent case of a California man, the fruit was proven to carry no label warning against intra-anal use, with tragic consequences. (We're referring to the apple, not the client). Such a vital function would be lost entirely if these insects are completely eliminated, and so debate continues. It is sufficient to say that if your orchard is the next targeted, harvesting time will certainly draw uninvited guests.

Oddly, in spite of the above-mentioned best efforts of government regulators, orchard productivity is not keeping pace with that of overseas competitors. Analysts are clearly puzzled.

In the next category of consideration, that of the price received for the fruits of your orchard, mainstream experts are also divided. One school of thought maintains that the price of apples should be determined by a blue ribbon panel of specialists who serve at the pleasure of Congress. The alternative view, hotly contested by dissenting experts, is that the price of apples should be determined by a blue ribbon panel of specialists who serve at the whim of Congress. Any final compromise reached will require the collective efforts of hundreds of experts, working to win over the support of the public. As responsible journalists, we will keep you informed. The danger is that the process could somehow possibly become politicized.

Part of the above delay has been the time necessary to screen out the clearly extremist views,- (and I hate to give undue credence to these discredited thoughts by actually printing them),- that of letting the buyers and the sellers determine for themselves what mutually agreeable price they would establish between them, on an ongoing basis. Since I strive to appear unbiased, and avoid the fate of Mr. Rather and Mr. Brokaw, I have even included, for historical purposes if nothing else, this bizarre, cult-like approach to setting prices.

Another consideration is that of the national policy on fertilizer. Many of the wealthier orchards are found to retain much more fertilizer, extending to them an unfair advantage in the market. Clearly an orchard that presents an appealing and appetizing product to the consumer will garner more profits than is the case otherwise. The only way found so far to deal with these distributional inequities, is the tax. Some have proposed a flat tax, suggesting that the fertilizer be at least allowed to be spread where it will do the most good...onto the roots of productive trees. Some have even argued that the tax should be reduced to the minimum levels necessary to protect the countryside, and let the remaining fertilizer fall where it may...so to speak. "All of this nonsense about the Alternative Minimum Tax" one grower opined, "..is a load of crap."

A more progressive and sensible-method, however, would be to re-distribute the greater share of this growth-producing elixir onto the LEAST productive areas, thereby forcing an even field. Detractors point out that layers of this fertilizer have been spread for 30 years over the concrete parking lots of government housing projects, and public schools, and no trees have yet sprang up from the concrete. Proponents counter-argue that over another 30 to 700 years, the eventual depth of fertilizer should eventually cause trees to spring up spontaneously. Experts are examining the root causes of this puzzling problem.

As a final consideration, the prospective planters among you will need to consider the amount of return you will likely realize, given the risk of buying the young trees, the cost of the maintenance and harvesting machinery, malicious mischief and other forms of government that you will face.

Some will argue that you will reap an unfair return on your investment, if you innovate ways to produce more fruit with fewer pickers. While it is true that increasing your productivity at the expense of some then-unhired, low-paid pickers will decrease the expense of the fruit to the pie factories, thereby enabling them to hire more of the highly paid pie makers, and encourage hiring of more apple-sauce bottlers, it is beside the point. The excuses used, such as the increasing reluctance of American workers to settle for apple picker's wages, the boost to the harvesting machine industry employment, and other red-herrings used to draw the public's attention away from those several lost apple-picking jobs, simply gloss over the stark reality of more harvesting jobs exported overseas.

There, the foreign pickers are exploited even more than our pickers, and often must leave their 30 cent per day rice planting jobs to settle for 90 cent per day apple picking jobs. The outrageous justifications offered by the foreign planters is that, "We learned from the Americans. Decades ago, they urged us to find a product that would bring prosperity to our country, and jobs to our people. It's our orchard, now, and our produce. We planted it. We watered it and waited for years as it grew, never knowing if it would fail and our families would starve. We use the money earned to pay for the high-priced American medicines, which, unlike the Soviet versions, actually cure our children, and enable them to grow up and read about free-enterprise, risk and market economies. We learn that from very old American books, which is all we can buy. We can't afford the new, modern American books which would teach our children about the tragedy of American enterprise, and the exploitation of the worker. Perhaps, in years to come...."

And so, considering all of the above and so much more, you will have to determine for yourself how much of your parent's life savings that you will invest, by planting in your orchard, or any other business you may go into...and whether it might prove worth it eventually, as the cost-and-regulation wheel-of-fortune spins relentlessly and indiscriminately, re-arranging the rules periodically, and upsetting any possible plans for the future.

After you're done, you'll need to do your taxes, too...


TOPICS: Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: investment; taxes

1 posted on 12/04/2004 1:26:23 PM PST by pickrell
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To: pickrell

As a nurseryman and garden center owner-operator in the business for 15 years, the answer is an unqualified "no". For the small to medium grower, it's a losing-to-break-even proposition. Most of them have or are selling out to developers.

You can buy better produce in the stores than you can grow. The lib-dem garbage have choked-off the industry with so many regulations and fines, that it's nearly impossible to recover from disease and insect infestation, because the necessary chemicals and huge labor requirements are taxed and regulated to death.

That said, I've never grown fruit or produce. I grow and sell ultra-high-quality nursery stock and perennials, and 80% of my multi-million dollar business is high-end landscaping. But all the family orchards here in southcentral Penna are selling-out to big developers. The imposed gov't costs are just too high for them to make a living, anymore.

Sad, but true.


2 posted on 12/04/2004 1:41:51 PM PST by 7.62 x 51mm ( veni vidi vino visa "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: 7.62 x 51mm

"... The lib-dem garbage have choked-off the industry with so many regulations and fines, that it's nearly impossible to recover from disease and insect infestation, because the necessary chemicals and huge labor requirements are taxed and regulated to death...."

It's a shame that we can't figure out any way, at least in time to do any good, to prevent this collapse of yet another American industry. We have always been the bread-basket of the world. In a decade or so, will the small family orchard ever again be "as American as apple pie?"

Have a good Christmas, 7.62 x 51mm. We need businessmen of your caliber.


3 posted on 12/04/2004 3:30:45 PM PST by pickrell (Old dog, new trick...sort of)
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To: pickrell

And a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year, to you and your, pickrell.


4 posted on 12/05/2004 4:38:14 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm ( veni vidi vino visa "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: 7.62 x 51mm
And a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe and Prosperous New Year, to you and your pickrell.

My pickrell thanks you.

5 posted on 12/05/2004 4:41:35 AM PST by Lazamataz ("Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown" -- harpseal)
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To: Lazamataz

LOL! Sorry Laz, wrong post. Coffee's brewing... (;^]~


6 posted on 12/05/2004 5:17:34 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm ( veni vidi vino visa "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: 7.62 x 51mm

Ooops, should have been...

"...to you and yours, pickrell."


7 posted on 12/05/2004 5:18:54 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm ( veni vidi vino visa "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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To: 7.62 x 51mm; pickrell

Ooops, should have been...

"...to you and yours, pickrell."

(Man, I'm really messing-up this morning)


8 posted on 12/05/2004 5:25:30 AM PST by 7.62 x 51mm ( veni vidi vino visa "I came, I saw, I drank wine, I shopped")
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