Monday, March 6, 2017

Orchard Rejuvenation: What is it worth?

Salamander's orchard would never be rejuvenated if Salamander had to pay me wages.

Salamander's orchard has two parts.  The upper part is flat, fertile and is set up to hold about sixty trees.  Forty-five are still alive and fifteen are penciled in for replacement.  The lower part is sloped and most of the top soil is eroded.  The trees keep dying and are not being replaced.

It will take me sixty hours to do the rejuvenation...or roughly an hour a tree.  Even if he was paying me minimum wage ($8.90/hour) the paperwork if he were to do it "right" would undoubtedly push the price over $15 an hour.  In other words, he would have to pay $900 to get the work done.

Size matters
Size matters for many things.  Orchards is one of them.

A "real" orchard needs sprayers, tractors, a containment shed to handle pesticides, a refrigeration facility, a sorting shed, fork trucks, bins....and a banker and a market.

Salamander has a tractor and me.

Most of the apples will be eaten by wild-life.  They don't pay cash and don't have credit cards.

Some of the apples will likely end up at Cider Pressing Parties.  If every apple from sixty productive trees was turned into cider that would be between 500-and-1000 gallons.

The sixty trees are on about a half acre of land.  An acre of "new" orchard costs about $20,000 to put into production so you might think of Salamander's orchard as having a balance sheet value of $10,000.

My vision of Salamander's orchard is that it is an insurance policy.  If it mattered, there will be 20,000 pounds of fruit to harvest every year.  The fruit may not be pretty but it would make fine cider, apple sauce or dried fruit.

Working in Salamander's orchard also increases the odds that I will be invited to go hunting there.  Some things are better than money.

Conventional economics has a difficult time grappling with things like insurance policies written against low frequency events and "hedonism".  Consequently, my actions are considered "irrational" by those with book-learning.
This is seasonally NOT adjusted and you can see the large (almost 4%) seasonal component.  The seasonal component gets smaller and smaller with each year as the fixed costs of hiring get larger.  Seasonal work gets hammered as there are fewer months of work (often 2 or 3) to amortize those expenses over.
I, on the other hand, look at the minimum wage and consider it irrational.  Salamander's orchard has potential.  Most folks I know refuse to work unless it puts $8.90/hour in their pocket.  The minimum wage has so numbed their brain that they cannot comprehend "two guys working in a garage" and creating businesses.  The minimum wage and associated, mandatory paperwork makes hiring people on a temporary basis prohibitive.  Problem number one kills new business formation.  Problem two has a chilling effect on folks entering the job market.


  1. Yep, that'll be hunting over bait later... :-)


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