New UC studies estimate production and harvest costs for coastal apples

Nov 17, 2023

Two new studies that can help Central Coast growers and other readers estimate costs and potential returns for both organically and conventionally produced apples for processing were recently released by University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

“These studies provide growers with a baseline to estimate their own costs, which can help when applying for production loans, projecting labor costs, securing market arrangements, or understanding costs associated with water and nutrient management and regulatory programs,” said Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-author of the studies.

The new studies, “2023 Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Apples for Processing” and “2023 Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Apples for Processing,” can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at  

The studies focus on processing apples, not fresh market apples, which makes a difference in farming practices. Apples grown for processing on the Central Coast are mostly pressed for juice and sparkling cider.

“Ready-to-eat means that looks matter – blemishes and so forth are a big deal. Juice not so much, it all gets smushed in the end,” said co-author Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor for Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. “Varieties grown here are Gala, Newtown Pippins, Mitsui and some Granny Smith.”

The cost studies model a management scenario for a 100-acre farm, 20 acres of which are planted to a mature orchard that produces apples for processing. The remaining acres are planted to apples not yet in production, caneberries, strawberries and vegetables. In each study, the authors describe the cultural practices used for organically or conventionally produced apples, including land preparation, soil fertility and pest management, irrigation and labor needs. Harvest costs are also shown.    

In six tables, they show the individual costs of each operation for apples, material input costs, and cash and non-cash overhead costs in a variety of formats. A ranging analysis shows potential profits over a range of prices and yields.

For a detailed explanation of the assumptions and calculations used to estimate the costs and potential returns for each crop, readers can refer to the narrative portion of each study. 

For more information, contact Mark Bolda at; Laura Tourte, emeritus UCCE advisor, at; or Jeremy Murdock of UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at

Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities grown in California are also available for free at

By Pamela S Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach