The rent-a-tree concept has become popular among growers of any crop that can be picked by customers, such as tree fruit, or nuts. Here’s how it works: A grower with an orchard of fruit or nut trees wants to sell his crop before the harvest. A customer also wants to own a future crop, while having a pro raise it.
Rent-a-tree can be profitable if you understand the potential of your crop and charge accordingly. It is also an opportunity to educate the community by allowing folks to becoming in farming or orcharding.
In Cave, Oregon, Jim McIver has converted his 150 tree cherry orchard to rent-a-tree, offering delicious Lambert and Queen Anne cherries to individuals or families that sign up for the program. When a tree is rented, it is labeled with the renter’s name.
Each tree proceeds about 90 pounds of cherries in season. Renters use orchard-supplied ladders and buckets, and McIver and his partner, Donna Rainboth, handle the orchard maintenance, such as pruning, mowing and watering. Many renters, especially those from afar, make cherry picking day a social event, and picnic in the orchard while picking “their” tree.
The orchard is organic, and surplus cherries are dehydrated, juiced or canned. Another profitable specialty is cherry brandy and chocolate-covered cherries. Rainboth says, “We especially enjoy teaching people about buying locally, buying organic and giving people the experience of participating in organic food production.”
Michigan grower Tom Rosenfeld rents out his organic apple trees to local folks, even a few city folks from Chicago – 100 miles away, who harvest two or three bushels, or around 80 – 120 pounds of apples from each tree. For $55, customers get to pick their own tree, and their favorite variety, ranging from Winesap to Jonagold to Courtland, Empire and Paula Red. Several Oregon hazelnut growers now offer a rent-a-tree program, as do walnut growers in the Midwest and Pecan growers in the South.
The latest tree to join the rent-a-tree ranks is the Christmas tree, as more consumers choose a renewable tree instead of a cut or artificial tree. In Los Angeles, the Living Christmas Company will deliver and pick up a living Christmas tree for $100, and delivered over 1,000 trees last year.
In Portland, Oregon, The Original Living Christmas Tree Company charges a similar amount. Owner John Fogel started his company is 1992. After the holidays, Fogel and his crew pick up the living tree at a customer’s home, and plant them in a nearby watershed, where they live out their lives purifying the watershed and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping the reduce global warming.
To insure that everyone’s expectations are met, it is customary for both grower and customer to sign a rental or lease contract. A local attorney or paralegal can help you come up with a simple agreement. Try to find one who will accept payment in fruit or nuts, rather than money!