The results presented in this WSU publication serve as a general guide for evaluating the feasibility of producing Sweetheart sweet cherries in Washington State as of 2015. This publication is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices, but it is helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings.
Specific assumptions were adopted for this study, but these assumptions may not fit every situation since production costs and returns vary across orchard operations, depending on the following factors:
- Capital, labor, and natural resources
- Crop yields
- Type and size of machinery, irrigation, and frost control systems
- Input prices
- Cultural practices
- Sweet cherry prices
- Orchard size
- Management skills
Cost estimations in the enterprise budget also vary depending on its intended use. To avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions for any particular orchard, readers must closely examine the assumptions made in this guide, and then adjust the costs, returns, or both as appropriate for their own orchard operation.
Sweetheart Sweet Cherry Production in Washington
Washington State is the number one producer of sweet cherries in the US. In 2014, the gross value of sweet cherries was about $385 million, ranking it seventh in terms of overall value of agricultural commodities produced in the state (WSDA 2015). The total planted acreage of sweet cherries has increased from 13,925 acres in 1986 to 38,115 acres in 2011 (NASS 2011). As of 2006 and 2011, Sweetheart was second to Bing in terms of its share in the total bearing acreage of sweet cherries in the state, which were 12% and 17% during those respective years.
In 2011, 6,569 acres were planted to Sweetheart sweet cherries: 53.4% of these bearing acres were located in Wenatchee, 27.5% in the Columbia Basin, 18.5% in the Yakima Valley, and 0.6% in other areas (NASS 2011).
This publication is designed to enable growers to estimate: (1) the costs of equipment, materials, supplies, and labor required to establish and produce a Sweetheart sweet cherry orchard, and (2) the ranges of price and yield at which Sweetheart sweet cherry production would be a profitable enterprise.
The primary use of this report is in identifying inputs, costs, and yields considered to be typical of well-managed Sweetheart sweet cherry orchards. This publication does not necessarily represent any particular orchard operation, and it is not intended to be a definitive guide to production practices. However, it describes current industry trends and, as such, can be helpful in estimating the physical and financial requirements of comparable plantings.
Sources of Information
The data used in this study were gathered from a group of experienced Sweetheart cherry growers in Washington. Their production practices and input requirements form the baseline assumptions that were used to develop the enterprise budget. Additionally, the data represent what these area growers anticipate over an orchard’s life, if no unforeseen failures occur. Given that many factors affect production costs, pack-out, and returns, individual growers can use the Excel Workbook provided to make necessary modifications and estimate their own costs and returns.
- The area of the total farm operation is 300 acres. Bearing acres include: 225 acres of apples (75% of total area), 48 acres of sweet cherries (16%), and 27 acres of pears (9%).
- This budget is based on an 11-acre Sweetheart block within a 300-acre diverse cultivar orchard. It is assumed that one acre of this block is not used for the direct production of tree fruit; rather, it is dedicated to roads, a pond, loading area, and the like. Therefore, the total productive area for this block is 10 acres. Table 1 shows the assumed Sweetheart block specifications.
- The value of bare agricultural land (including water rights) is $12,000 per acre with annual property taxes of $120 per acre.