We began our harvest on Saturday. Our harvest teams fanned out into the olive groves and began picking olives and trucking them to our northern California mill. There, our milling team is crushing the olives into extra virgin olive oil.
We asked one of our ranchers, Brian Mori, to talk about this year’s harvest, our olive crop, 24-hour days, and more. Brian works with our family farmers, or contracted growers, on matters like crop practices, harvest, and quality.
How long will the harvest last?
We’re shooting for a 35-day to 45-day harvest season, weather permitting. This past week we’ve been doing a lot of training and testing of our harvester operators. They’ve been test driving the harvesters through the olive groves so that we can hit the ground running. At the mill, we’ve been testing the equipment to make sure there are no problems. We’ve been running through the different production lines and testing the computer technology.
Is there anything new you’ll be doing during this year’s harvest?
This will be the second year we’re using harvesting machines that are designed specifically for olives – as opposed to the earlier harvesters that were adapted from grape harvesting. These new harvesters are gentler on the trees and on the fruit. They also pick the olives quite a bit more quickly.
How does the crop yield look?
We’re anticipating an above-average crop yield. We’re harvesting around 10,000 acres this year. As of now we’re anticipating a dry fall, which will allow us to have a continuous harvest and let us harvest within our 35-day harvest season.
How would you characterize the quality of the olives, and the oil they’ll produce?
We’re expecting very good fruit flavor and overall quality. The oil will be similar to the oil we made last year. We think it will be a very robustly flavored oil. We’ve had favorable weather conditions this year. We had a nice warm summer and we haven’t had a dramatic amount of rainfall, which is important to us. We’ve also fine-tuned our crop practices and our irrigation management.
What are the biggest challenges you face during harvest?
Weather is the biggest challenge. We can’t control it. We want to avoid rain or a hard freeze that can damage the olives. In the most northern parts of California, where we are, the first freeze typically comes after Nov. 25th. That’s why we try to get the majority of the harvest done before then.
Also, it’s important to make sure that the contracted growers we work with are as efficient as possible when delivering the olives to our mill. We want to avoid traffic jams or gaps in delivery, so that everything can run smoothly.
What kind of hours will the harvest teams be putting in?
At our own orchards we pick around the clock, 24/7. Our contracted growers either pick anywhere from 12 to 24 hours a day, depending on field conditions.
Your friends at California Olive Ranch