Author Topic: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?  (Read 897 times)

Weboh

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What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« on: February 01, 2021, 03:58:53 PM »
I'm planning on setting up an orchard in Puerto Rico in the next few years, and hopefully turn it into my main source of income eventually.

Right now, I'm looking into possible locations for the orchard. I don't have a spot nailed down, but I do know where I want to avoid: The southwest, (because of earthquakes) the highest parts, (because of difficulty getting equipment around on steep ground plus making hurricane damage worse) and the coast (because of hurricanes and high prices).

Mayaguez looks promising. I know it's a historical agricultural area, so there will probably be a lot of people and resources there to help (especially the USDA facility). It's also a flatter area with a good elevation. It will probably be a place I check out when I go to Puerto Rico for a trip next year. However, before I go there, I'd like to look at classifieds to see what's available so I don't waste a lot of time driving around looking for "Se vende" signs.

Where is the best place to find land for sale in Puerto Rico? I tried Zillow and similar sites, but I couldn't find many entries on them for properties with a  large amount of land. I'm looking to buy around 20-50 acres (or more, if I can find a really good deal).

If anyone has any other advice, I'd be glad to hear that, too. I'm already brushing up on my Spanish, and I'm prepared to not have reliable utilities. I'm planning on drilling a well and installing solar panels. I don't have that much money set away yet (about $30,000) but I'm planning on taking it all a step at a time. I'm also looking into getting a job that will let me work remotely to give me extra money while I get my farm established.

Looking forward to hearing what you all have to say!

Gone tropo

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2021, 06:14:17 PM »
i dont have any info to offer you sorry as i live on the other side of the world, but i admire your courage on doing something like this. All the best hope it works out for you.

pineislander

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2021, 06:56:05 PM »
There are a few members here from PR you need to develop a strong relationship with them. You could probably search the forums and find them then private message. Good thing to have outside income farming can be a negative income for years, but can also be very satisfying. Buying land is quite different from buying in the USA.

elouicious

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2021, 04:29:28 PM »
Check out this tool for planning long-term planting

https://www.agroforestryx.com/

bsbullie

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2021, 05:50:02 PM »
Avoid Cat 4 & 5 hurricanes like the plague.  There are probably still a lot of messed up areas from Irma's and Maria's onslaught in 2017.
- Rob

johnb51

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2021, 12:42:50 AM »
livingenergyfarm.org  Check them out.  Alexis in an innovator.
John

Mike T

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2021, 01:09:14 AM »
There are so many things to think about. If you are lucky and get a place with good soil like alluvial or basalt derived and have access to irrigation water and have a dwelling the real work can start.Are you hoping to make money seeling fruit to the local markets? If so you have to make sure you can have them accepted and that you have the right fruits. Productivity per are, prices, season, harvesting and storage all have to be considered. If you want to supply restaurants, do tasting tours, propagate and sell plants or seeds then there are more thing to think about. Hurricane proofing trees, fertlising, pruning and pesticides is another thing.
Now what to grow and for what reason and when will each fruit? Can you get specialty fruits others don't have and can you wait until trees start to fruit?


Galatians522

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2021, 07:45:22 AM »
Along with all the excellent advice that has been given, I will add this. Market segmentation is key to success if you want to turn something into a business. Don't start with the idea that you are going to sell "everything to everyone." Figure out what your market is and start by providing them with one excellent product. If you want to focus on mangoes, become known as the "mango man." After you establish your production for that, move on to the next phase/product. Unless you are already experienced at growing a variety of tropical fruits learning the specific requirements can be overwhelming if you have 50 varieties of fruit to sell. As a result, you will likely do a poor job of growing most of them and will have low production and consumer acceptance. Finally, a written business plan with income/expense figures (based in realistic production) over time will assist you greatly.

Weboh

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2021, 03:11:57 PM »
There are a few members here from PR you need to develop a strong relationship with them. You could probably search the forums and find them then private message. Good thing to have outside income farming can be a negative income for years, but can also be very satisfying. Buying land is quite different from buying in the USA.
How is buying land in Puerto Rico different from buying it somewhere else in the US? Is there some ordinance against mainland US citizens buying land that I'm missing, or did you just not realize that Puerto Rico is a part of the US?

Check out this tool for planning long-term planting
https://www.agroforestryx.com/
Looks interesting. I'll definitely keep that tool in mind when I decide on the property.

Avoid Cat 4 & 5 hurricanes like the plague.  There are probably still a lot of messed up areas from Irma's and Maria's onslaught in 2017.
Yeah, I live in Florida, so I'm used to dealing with hurricanes. The only difference in Puerto Rico is how much longer it takes a corrupt, bankrupt government to repair infrastructure. That's why I'm planning on having my own power and water, so I don't have to depend on local infrastructure.

livingenergyfarm.org  Check them out.  Alexis in an innovator.
Looks similar to what I want to do. Thanks!

There are so many things to think about. If you are lucky and get a place with good soil like alluvial or basalt derived and have access to irrigation water and have a dwelling the real work can start.Are you hoping to make money selling fruit to the local markets? If so you have to make sure you can have them accepted and that you have the right fruits. Productivity per are, prices, season, harvesting and storage all have to be considered. If you want to supply restaurants, do tasting tours, propagate and sell plants or seeds then there are more thing to think about. Hurricane proofing trees, fertilizing, pruning and pesticides is another thing.
Now what to grow and for what reason and when will each fruit? Can you get specialty fruits others don't have and can you wait until trees start to fruit?
Good point on the soil. I'll definitely have to do a soil analysis before I buy any land. And I definitely want to sell fruits that people in Puerto Rico would want. I would love to have mangosteen be a main crop, but I understand it's not that popular there. Maybe I could export most of the excess to the mainland US; at ~$15 a pound here, it could actually be a good cash crop. I'll probably have some mangoes and guanabana, with ever-bearing citrus varieties and bananas for when the others aren't producing.

And of course, the real fun starts when I'm growing things not to sell, but for myself. I'd love to develop a huge collection of tropical fruit from all areas of the world... eventually. An idea I have is to have a setup similar to the Fruit and Spice Park's visitor center, where people from all over can get fresh, rare fruits, and also smoothies, preserved stuff, and souvenirs. But I have to start small.

spencerw

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Re: What do I need to know about starting an orchard in Puerto Rico?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2021, 07:05:11 PM »
theres lots of things to consider when moving somewhere new. i moved to hawaii about 6 years ago from california, here are some of my insights.

youll need to understand the history in PR.
-what kinds of large scale agriculture happened there? here we have pineapples, sugarcane, and cattle. each for 150 years in different locations. you can imagine the amounts of chemicals poured into the ground and they used to use weed mats in the pineapple fields. so every site that contained pineapples has layers of plastic ingrained into the soil.
-we used to have closed canopy forests that covered the entirety of all of the islands. large scale ag burned the forests and released the cattle. this changed the ecosystem. places that used to have a forest no longer rain in certain localities. do yourself a favor and find the consistent rainfall and live there. life without rain is very difficult.
-our island ecosystem is very isolated naturally. we have no checks and balances for pests. once something comes in, theres no way it will ever balance back out. an easy example is rats. nothing eats them here so their populations just expand exponentially forever, killing our endemic birds. same with snails, slugs, pigs, deer, beetles, ants, mosquitoes and invasive plants to name a few more. are you willing to deal with this reality?
-what kinds of cultures are there? is a mixed or strictly a puerto rican culture? cultures tend to eat certain foods. its hard to get someone to eat different foods from another culture. you need to stick to these crops if you realistically want to farm for profit. sure you may be able to get a culture to like durian, or you could have the culture hate you and your stinky durian trees. so tread lightly on experimental crops in your region. grow whatever youd like for yourself, but dont plant acres and expect the locals to eat from your trees until its tested.
-small places have tight communities. lay low and be friendly to everyone. people talk. if you do good, people will buy from you, if youre a dick youll be outed by the community.
-culturally how to people feel about foreigners? here people dont like them due to our complicated history. be kind and polite, people will usually look past your differences if you give back to the community. being a farmer is an easy way to have a good relationship with a community. even start out by giving your neighbors some of your overabundance for free, this is also a good way to test new crops by giving out free samples and get the feedback from the people. they will talk and youll prob be accepted and maybe even liked!
-whats the agriculture ties to the US? will you be able to export anything? can you bring anything in? were pretty much stuck here in hawaii becasue of Californias agricultural restrictions. everything we export to the US stops in CA first. they reject everything from us because they do not want our pests. we cannot import a lot of things, myrtaceae species got banned last year here. we can only bring seeds for plants.
-can you grow bananas or are there pests and diseases? here we have banana bunchy top virus. detrimental to the species and its everywhere. most people cannot grow bananas because of the proximity to an infected bunch (spread by aphids). a terrible dilemma.

-what is the value for hired labor? is there a minimum wage? i have 12 acres and simply cannot afford to hire any help because of expense, nor pay myself.
-what is the market access? how long will you have to travel to sell your produce? do you even have a place at the market or are all the vendors occupying most easy niches? here people buy greens. but the market is full of vendors selling greens. so even if i took the time to develop a crop of greens why would any customers buy from me if they can get from their regular vendor.
-do people even care about buying fresh local food? or are they more concerned about just feeding people. here we have two different kinds of people. the 'i buy from the grocery store' and the 'i buy from the farmers'. this is usually directly tied to income and access. poorer communities are less likely to be able to tap into the expensive produce that would be local.
-are there any cooperative organizations to help with processing or access to market. we have a small sweet potato farmer co-op here where the farmers share technology (tractors) and have a labor pool they tap into when they need to harvest their crops. there are talks for a cacao co-op here. you grow the pods and bring them into the co-op for processing, they buy your pods and take on the rest of the process. we have a breadfruit co-op that you can drop off produce and they will buy all you supply. as they process and turn it into dried/dehydrated/milled products that have shelf life and then they market and sell. they even have a relationship with a lot of the local schools and are getting breadfruit in the kids lunch meals. awesome. without co-ops farming on your own can be very hard.
-living in an agricultural region has its positives and negatives. most people will be on the same page, soils will be workable and crops will already be tested in the area, but the pests will already be around and soils will be extremely degraded.

lastly dont grow an orchard. grow a forest! check out syntropic agroforestry.

a little food for thought. best of luck!
aloha
 

 

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