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Starting an Online Fig Tree Business Using FigBid & More on Preserving Local Heirloom Figs

Updated: Mar 3, 2023



Have you ever considered starting a business selling fig trees and fig cuttings? While it may seem like a niche market, the popularity of fig trees is on the rise, making it a potentially lucrative venture. However, before diving in, it's important to understand the economics and potential challenges of the industry and a website called FigBid can make this process a lot easier.

In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of starting a fig tree business, including tips for shipping, preserving heirloom varieties, and growing figs in Florida. Join me or watch the interview above to delve into the world of fig trees and discover the secrets to success in this growing market.

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Starting a Business Around Selling Fig Trees and Fig Cuttings


First, let's discuss the economics of starting a fig tree business. As Danny mentioned in the interview, there are newcomers who may be drawn to the idea of propagating fig trees and selling them for profit. While this is a valid reason to start a business, it's important to understand the costs and potential earnings involved.

The largest and most difficult hurdle is the investment required to acquire the initial fig trees or cuttings. Depending on the variety, this can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars per tree or cutting. Then there are the costs of materials such as soil, pots, and fertilizer, as well as the costs of shipping and packaging if selling online.

However, fig trees are a profitable investment that requires few inputs past the initial start-up costs. Regarding profits, some popular varieties can sell for high prices, and as Danny mentioned and those who put in the time and effort can achieve success.

It's important to also consider the competition in the fig tree market. With the popularity of fig trees increasing, there may be many other sellers offering the same or similar varieties. This means that marketing and promoting your business will be crucial in order to stand out from the competition.

One way to make starting a fig tree business easier is by using a platform like FigBid. As I mentioned in the interview, FigBid provides a safe and reliable way to exchange figs and has been a valuable service for the entire fig community. With FigBid, sellers can easily create listings and communicate with buyers, and buyers can shop with confidence knowing that they are protected from scams.


Tips for Shipping Fig Trees & Cuttings


Shipping is a crucial factor when it comes to selling fig trees and cuttings. Without proper shipping practices, you risk damaging or losing your precious fig trees, resulting in dissatisfied customers and lost profits. Here are some tips to help you succeed in the shipping aspect of your fig business:

Use the Right Containers and Boxes

Using the right containers and boxes is essential to ensure that your fig trees and cuttings arrive at their destination safely. Make sure to use sturdy and durable containers that can withstand the rigors of shipping, and pack your figs carefully to prevent any damage during transit. Consider using boxes with reinforced corners and edges for extra protection.

Ship Fig Trees with UPS

When it comes to shipping fig trees and cuttings, UPS is a reliable option that offers competitive pricing and excellent service. By using UPS, you can track your packages in real-time and ensure that your figs arrive at their destination on time and in good condition.

Consider Third-Party Shippers

FitShipper.com is a recommended third-party shipper for fig sellers, as it offers reasonable prices and solid service. Shopping around for the best shipping rates is recommended, and it is important to negotiate a contract with the post office when reaching high shipping volumes.

Use Shipping Software

Using shipping software like ShippingEasy can save time and money when sending out a large number of packages. This software can help you automate your shipping processes, print labels, and track your shipments in real-time. It can also help you find the best shipping rates and avoid costly mistakes. Overall, using shipping software can streamline your shipping operations and improve your efficiency.


Local Figs


Preserving Heirloom Fig Trees in New York City & Philadelphia

Preserving unique heirloom fig tree varieties is important to maintain the family traditions and stories associated with them. Without propagation and distribution, these varieties may disappear entirely.

Northeastern US cities such as New York City and Philadelphia have a significant population of fig growers and history, thanks to the influx of immigrants to the region. It is believed that many of the unique fig tree varieties found in the area were brought over by these immigrants from their home countries. The discovery and propagation of these unknown fig tree varieties have become a passion for many in the fig community.


Over the years, Danny has been involved in finding unknown fig varieties in the area of NYC, which has been possible through networking with other fig growers in his area.

For Danny, the stories behind the fig trees and their connections to people's families and pasts are fascinating. He enjoys discovering the unique fig varieties in the region and the history behind their existence. He has collected many unknown fig varieties over the years, some of which have turned out to be very nice figs.

The conversation also highlighted specific unknown fig tree varieties that have been discovered in the area. For example, the Giacomo Rao fig tree in Brooklyn has a unique story and is tied to a family's history. The tree was brought over by the family's ancestors, who immigrated to the US from Italy in the early 1900s. The tree has been passed down through the generations and is now being cared for and propagated by the family's descendants and other fig growers in the community.

The entire Giacomo Rao story is told by Danny below. Check out the original Giacomo Rao listing on FigBid here:

I was invited to visit this massive 40-something-year-old, Gravesend, Brooklyn fig tree during the middle of this summer and had the opportunity to pick pounds of fresh figs. They're delicious! The current owner invited me back to prune and I jumped at the opportunity to secure material for distribution.

This is a small, round, green fig with amber to peach-colored pulp. Medium-sized cavity. Light, refreshing fig flavor with hints of melon. Very sweet. The skin is not tough but firmer than other green figs my family is used to. Easy to bite into and not chewy. A small amount of seed crunch. Short stem, small eye. Very prolific main crop; starts to ripen during the 3rd week of August through the end of September. Unknown breba.

The tree (clearly) has a high amount of vigor. Single and tri-lobed, coarsely serrated leaves with the majority being single-lobed or spade-type. Leaves are thick and rough. Very cold hardy. 40+ years old and never winter protected. Common fig, no pollination necessary. The type of vigor, leaf, and growth characteristics remind me of Palmata-types. Maybe a Palmata cross? Who knows. We're green fig lovers and don't have a small green fig of this caliber in our collection so we're proud to add this heirloom.

We've all heard legends of ancestral fig trees so tall they're measured in stories and not feet. Of all the wonderful NYC fig trees I'm granted access to, I've never had the opportunity to prune a massive, Old-World, Brooklyn heirloom. The type of tree that grows so large the owner can pull the top into a second or third-story window during the fall and eat fresh figs into the early winter.

The type of trees that suffer more fig loss from daily rail commuters picking figs from raised platforms than bird predation. This is one of those fig trees. Take a look at the screenshot I pulled from Google Streetview. You can see the massive fig tree in the backyard of the house on the right. Just above the fig tree is the NYC subway F Line and Google snapped a picture just as the train was going by. From that picture, you can get an idea of just how big this fig tree really is. That picture was taken by Google in August 2011 and you can see the fig tree loaded with figs from the street!

The Giacomo Rao fig tree in Brooklyn, NYC.

The owner of this fig tree was the late Giacomo Rao. Giacomo came to the Gravesend section of Brooklyn in the late 70s and opened a pizzeria that thrived for many decades. Giacomo was a pillar in the community and even as I pruned a neighbor came out to tell me stories about him and this wonderful fig tree (nothing gets by a good Brooklyn neighbor, anyway).

Shortly after arriving in Gravesend, Giacomo received the fig tree as a gift from a friend who came from the same town in Palermo, Sicily. Giacomo planted the tree in the spot where it now grows and it fruited the following season. Giacomo loved his work, his family, and his fig tree.

The tree grew wild and needed to be pruned back every season. Giacomo would tell his brother Giuseppe about the hard work involved in taking care of the fig tree and one season Giuseppe cut down the tree and removed it. Giuseppe had good intentions and thought he was doing Giacomo a favor by cutting down the tree.

When Giacomo came home from the pizzeria Giuseppe showed him the fine work he'd done by cutting down the fig tree. A huge fight started that lasted for an entire year until the tree grew back the following spring. As I was pruning I found massive old trunks in the middle of the base of that tree and wondered if those were the trunks left by Giuseppe Rao so many years ago.

This story ends like most immigrant stories in NYC. The owners have since passed and extended families have moved on leaving the fig tree behind. Sometimes a fig tree is important to the family and sometimes it's not. In all cases, though, these are the original varieties brought here by our ancestors from the Old Country long ago and I can always make the argument that they're the best.

In this case, Giacomo taught his grandson Scott the importance of this fig tree and he knows how special this particular fig tree is to his grandfather and the family. The house is being sold and there will no longer be access to this wonderful fig tree.

As collectors, we have to do our best to preserve these original classics. I will be making some fig trees for Scott to share with his family and Scott would like cuttings of this wonderful variety distributed in the name of his grandfather Giacomo Rao.

Danny is not only interested in collecting these fig varieties, but he also propagates and distributes them, often giving back to the original tree owners. He sees the act of returning and giving back to the original tree owners as a way of preserving the unique varieties and showing appreciation to the individuals who have cared for the trees over the years.

Regarding fig trees in Philadelphia, I have seen the potential in my city and it is incredible. There are many fig trees in the area, particularly in South Philly, where there is a large community of Italian people.

Two new friends, Ricky (a videographer who loves permaculture and fruits) and Justin (a passionate fig grower that teaches public school in Philadelphia) have joined me on the hunt for local fig tree heirloom varieties in Philadelphia. After scouting over 100 trees in PA and NJ this summer, I mapped out the journey, we met some interesting local fig growers along the way and acquired 10-13 new varieties that could someday be lost.
Now if proven worthy, they will be given the opportunity to live on. The day was filmed by Ricky and portions of the day will inevitably be made into a movie. Stay tuned for that coming sometime this fall or winter.

Below are photos from the day.

Growing Figs in Florida


Growing fig trees in Florida can present unique challenges for farmers and gardeners alike. In the interview, Danny discusses his move to Florida and the difficulties he has encountered in growing figs in this climate.

Danny, who previously lived and grew figs in the Northeast, says that Florida presents a unique set of problems for fig growers. One of the major challenges he has faced is rot, a phenomenon where the figs on the tree rot and fall off due to excessive humidity and rainfall.

In addition to figs rotting in Florida, there is also a high concentration of root-knot nematodes (RKN) in Florida soils. RKN stunts or severely slows the growth of fig trees often leading to eventual death.

Danny explains that the best way to get around them is to graft fig trees onto Ficus Sycomorus rootstock, which is compatible with fig trees and resistant to nematodes. However, this process can set growers back years, as they have to wait for the trees to mature before they can begin to produce fruit.

He also warns that just because a fig tree has done well in one part of the country, it may not necessarily thrive in another region.

Despite these challenges, Danny says that he has found success in growing tropical plants in Florida, with about 20 different species planted in the ground on his property.


Conclusion


Starting a fig tree business can be a daunting task, but with the right mindset and knowledge, success is achievable. As I’ve discussed in this article, there are several key factors to consider, including start-up costs, competition, shipping, and growing challenges. However, with dedication and hard work, fig tree enthusiasts can turn their passion into a profitable venture.

By preserving heirloom varieties, discovering unique unknown figs, and utilizing platforms like FigBid, growers can thrive in this growing market. With the popularity of fig trees on the rise, now is the perfect time to explore this exciting industry and start your own fig tree business.


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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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