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Starting a Commercial Fig Tree Orchard in Humid & Cold Climates | What to Look Out For

Updated: Feb 2, 2023



Key Takeaways:
Are you looking to grow figs commercially in a humid climate? Look no further! In this post, we dive into the unique challenges and solutions for successfully cultivating figs in humid environments like Cape Cod or Philadelphia.

From utilizing greenhouses and plastic to selecting the right varieties, we've got you covered. Whether you're a small organic farmer or a local restaurant owner, this post is packed with valuable information to help you grow market-friendly figs that will impress your customers. Don't miss out on the secrets to fig success- read on!

As always if you want more fig-related content like this, feel free to subscribe to the Fig Boss newsletter at the top of the page.

Growing figs for a farm CSA or commercially for local markets can provide several benefits for farmers.


  1. High demand: Figs are a popular fruit that is in high demand in many local markets and are becoming the next "in" food. They are being used not only for consumption but in skin care products, health products, and even as a coffee alternative. This can lead to a profitable crop for farmers.

  2. Long harvest season: Figs typically have a long harvest season, which can provide a steady source of income for farmers.

  3. Versatility: Figs can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen, from fresh eating to preserving, adding value to the crop.

  4. Low maintenance: Once established, fig trees require relatively low maintenance and are drought tolerant, which can make them a cost-effective crop for farmers.

  5. Sustainable crop: Figs are a perennial crop, which can be a sustainable option for farmers as they do not need to be replanted every year.

  6. Variety of options: There are many different varieties of figs available, each with its unique flavor and texture, which can be a great way to offer a diverse selection to customers.

  7. Local market: Selling figs in a local market can be beneficial as it allows farmers to build a relationship with their customers and understand their preferences.

  8. Organic: Figs can be easily grown organically, which can be a great way to appeal to customers who are interested in buying organic produce.


A Case Study for Growing Fig Trees Commercially in Humid Climates

Hi Ross, I have a small organic farm/CSA service and provide my produce too few local restaurants. I’ve gotten hooked on growing figs over the last few years and have found your blog incredibly informative and useful.
I’m curious if you might have any insight or suggestions for more commercial/market friendly figs that could perform well in my climate. I’m in zone 7a, Cape Cod. I understand there are unique differences between properties considering micro climates and have found most of the varieties I’ve tried so far have actually done quite well.
I have a 10x20 ft polycarbonate greenhouse I can utilize and imagined mostly growing in containers with some I’m trying out in ground. I have a few good pockets on the property in warm protected sunny spots.
Any thoughts would be appreciated and looking forward to trying the LSU Tiger cuttings I’ve purchased. Thank you, Eric

Why growing fig trees under plastic is critical:


When growing in a greenhouse you can expand the varieties that you're growing a lot more. Why? Because under plastic you can avoid rain absorbing into the skin and ruining the fruits. Greenhouses if configured correctly can also regulate humidity and keep temperatures warmer in the winter. Figs also REALLY love heat while they're ripening. Temperatures in the 90s to low 100s shorten hang time considerably, which leads to better fruit quality. So most of the important qualities we look for in figs when growing in humid climates become somewhat irrelevant.

These characteristics I thoroughly cover here:

When you're not growing under plastic, you're a bit limited to varieties that only perform well in humid areas and can survive your winter lows. There's a lot more to worry about. Being so close to the water, Cape Cod likely has some winter advantages that I do not have here. In general, you want to be growing at least in a warm zone 7A. Cape Code is about 300 miles north of me and therefore is likely a lot colder, but because Cape Cod is so close to the water, the warmer ocean air acts as a buffer to the winter lows.

Hardy fig varieties are discussed in length here:

Frequently I talk about the winter minimum temperatures a fig tree can survive, but it's important to consider the duration as well. If the temperature dips down to 0F, that would be bad for 99% of fig varieties in existence, but if it only kissed that 0F low and quickly rose back up to let's say 5F, the damage will be a lot less severe if any. Again, this is why thermodynamic heating is critical and simple methods of winter protection like wrapping can go a long way.

Read more about winter protection here & here:

Concerns about fruit quality:


The challenge with commercial figs is that a lot of them are quite soft. Depending on the variety and when you harvest can change how quickly they turn to mush. You want them cold at all times and harvested in the morning.


Preferably they have harder skin to them and keep their shape when handled. You also want to organize them in a way that they aren't stacked on top of each other in let's say a pint container. Growers typically have them in something like an egg carton that separates each fruit from another.


Fruit size & weight:


You also might be concerned with size. The smaller ones will taste better in humid climates because they're consistently at a higher quality, but they will likely net you less food per tree than a productive large fig. But as I said many times before, the large figs don't produce high-quality fruit consistently in humid places and you won't get the full fig experience sharing them with customers as they have to be picked early to have a decent fruit quality.

Skin color & visual marketability:


One other factor to consider is skin color. Specifically, what do your clients want in a fig? When concerning skin color specifically, you have to consider sugar spots. Sugar spots form when the figs ripen slowly and in times of higher humidity. These sugar spots only form on specific varieties and most of the time dark skinned figs hide these spots. A fig-like Sucrette would perform beautifully but is known to produce a higher quantity of sugar spots towards the bottom of the fruit.

For information on growing figs in humid Florida, click here:

My recommendations for commercial fig varieties:


The easy commercial choice is Moro de Caneva, Moro de Caneva & Moro de Caneva. They are medium in size, easy to harvest, hold up to handling, and perform well even in humid places. In a humid place, I see no reason to grow anything else yet for commercial purposes.


LSU Tiger I think may make a fantastic choice. The skin is quite hard and allows the figs to be harvested shriveled and soft on the tree without damage.

Golden Rainbow aka Yellow Long Neck is that huge fig that commercial growers look for that also has good commercial potential, but will always be picked early in humid places.

I also think a source of White Marseilles or possibly an even better option is Barbillone which could work out. They have a harder shell when picked early and ripen consistently early, reliably, and are hardy trees.

Longue d'Aout and Dalmatie are also choices commercial growers look to. Specifically for size and they're great taste. The problem is that these figs are consistently ruined by moisture.

By most accounts, I think Hardy Chicago and Celeste are the biggest and most reliable producers.

Other humid climate commercial options:


Teramo
Hunt
Adriatics
Barnissotte
Ronde de Bordeaux


Undercover, you could experiment with a lot more. Other commercial figs better suited to drier conditions:

Grise de St. Jean
Bourjassotte Noire
Black Madeira
Coll de Dama
Bourjassotte Grise
Del Sen Juame Gran
Hivernenca
Dotatto
California Brown Turkey
CDA
Super Jumbo DK
Pastiliere
Paradiso (Siro)
Black Mission
Verdino
Inchario Preto
KTJ
Panache
Brogiotto Bianco
Lampeira Preta
Princesa
Da Ponte
Tashkent
Tauro
Sbayi
Bellone
Sultane
Bebera Branca

You're ready to start a fig orchard


Overall, growing figs for a farm CSA or commercially for local markets can be a profitable and sustainable option for farmers. It provides a high demand, long harvest season, versatility, low maintenance, sustainable crop, variety of options, and appeals to local and organic markets.

This blog post only scratches the surface of the information I can offer to commercial growers. While I am a commercial grower or "nurseryman" of fig trees, selling fruit commercially is my next goal. You might think that I don't want any competition. Why should I share my knowledge and secrets? I believe that the more this fruit grows, the more it will benefit everyone. There's plenty to go around and how can I not support someone with the same dream as myself?

For consultations on the whole topic of commercial fig orchards, see my consultation page here for more information:

You can also contact me here:


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Ross, the "Fig Boss." A YouTuber educating the world on the wonderful passion of growing fig trees. Apply my experiences to your own fig journey to grow the best tasting food possible.
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