There’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing the harvest come in after years of planning and toiling. This year’s olive harvest at our farm was no exception!
In 2006 I decided to jump into my decade-long passion for olive oil by converting a piece of my unused land into an olive tree orchard. My wife, Nancy, and I visited Tuscany in 2004 and discovered that to our taste, there was no better olive oil flavor in the world than Tuscan olive oil. This coupled with the fact that in Italy, olives thrive on dejected, rocky soil where nothing else except Manzanita shrubs will grow, made our work easier and more environmentally fulfilling.
In 2006 we planted 1,250 olive trees and followed up this year with 1,400 more trees — all Tuscan varieties of Frantoio, Lecchino, Pendolino, and Moriaolo that have a distinctive ‘fruity’ and slightly ‘peppery’ flavor. The Nov. 2 harvest assembled 12 interns from the Solar Living Institute eager to join in our new endeavor; none had ever picked an olive before!
The tricky part about olives is that for ideal oil, you need to get the olives to the press within 12 hours of picking, so time was of the essence. We started picking at 7:30 in the morning and barely finished picking 1,200 pounds of olives by 5 p.m., delivering them to our local olive press by 6 p.m.
It was an exciting moment for my family and me and our intern pickers as we watched the centuries-old Italian stone press whirl around to create the most heavenly redolent odor we’d ever encountered.
About an hour after the olives were crushed and run through the centrifuge, we all got our first taste of our labors — some of the most delicious olive oil any of us had ever tasted. The fact that it’s extra virgin, stone crushed, and 100% organic made it all the more satisfying. (We also committed this year to only biodynamic olive tree growing practices, allowing us to receive our Demeter Certification for Biodynamics in 2008.)
While we only got about 16 gallons of oil this year, it’s enough for our family’s needs and makes great gifts. But in the future we expect to get as many as 1,500 gallons a year which can be shared with our entire community. The added bonus: If fossil fuel petroleum oil goes away (or continues skyrocketing in price over $100/barrel), we’ll be able to make our own biodiesel from our olive trees, powering our passenger and farm vehicles.
Long live the elegant olive!
For the earth,