Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tomato Gardener: Growing for Canning

Growing for canning has many advantages over growing for market. Some of these are that it is not necessary to start the plants so early, that they can be grown at less cost, and set in the field when smaller and with less check, and on this latter account are apt to give a large yield. It is not necessary to gather the fruit so often, nor to handle it so carefully, while practically all of it is saleable. For these reasons the cost of production is lower and it is less variable than with crops grown for market. Still farmers and writers do not agree at all as to the actual cost. It is claimed by some that where the factory is within easy reach of the field the cost of growing, gathering and delivering a full yield of tomatoes need not exceed $12 to $18 an acre, while others declare they cannot be grown for less than $40. Nearly one-third of this cost is for picking and delivering, and varies more with the facilities for doing this easily and promptly and with the yield than with crops grown for market. A large proportion of the crops grown for canning are poorly cultivated and unwisely handled, so that the average yield throughout the entire country is very low, hardly exceeding 100 bushels an acre. But where weather and other conditions are favorable, and with judicious cultivation, a yield of 300 to 800 bushels an acre can be expected. I have known of many larger ones.

A large proportion of the tomatoes grown for canning are planted under contract, by which the farmer agrees to deliver the entire yield of fruit fit for canning, which may be produced on a given area, at the contract price per bushel or ton. The canner is to judge what fruit is fit for canning and this often results in great dissatisfaction. To the grower it seems in many cases as though the quantity of acceptable fruit paid for was determined quite as much by the abundance or scarcity of the general crop as by the weight hauled to the factory. The prices paid by the factories for the past 10 years run from 10 to 25 cents a bushel, while canning tomatoes in the open market for the same period have brought from 8 to 50 cents a bushel, which, however, are exceptional prices. In all but two of the past 10 years uncontracted tomatoes could generally be sold, in most sections, for more than was paid on contract. I have given the price a bushel, though canning tomatoes are usually sold by the ton. The cost of the product of a well-equipped cannery is divided about as follows: fruit, 30 per cent.; handling, preparing and processing the fruit, 18 per cent.; cost of cans, labels, cases, etc., 43 per cent.; labeling, packing and selling, 0.035 per cent.; incidentals, 0.055 per cent.