Olive Harvest Update and Primer from California Olive Ranch

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days here in northern California. But it’s been great. We wrapped up our Harvest Retreat for chefs, wholesalers, and others late last night, following a fabulous dinner showcasing California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oils. It was prepared by Chef Kurt Spataro at the Italian restaurant in Sacramento bearing his last name. I returned to my room at the nearby Citizen Hotel at close to 11 p.m.

I was tired but pleased with the day’s events. We’d begun at 8 a.m. yesterday morning at  the Citizen, with our large group boarding two buses for a two-hour trip north to our mill in Artois.

Now that I’ve had a little shut-eye and cleared some work off my desk, I want to give you an update on how our olive harvest and milling operations are proceeding. I also want to give you a flavor of the tour we gave our guests Tuesday at our Artois ranch.

The outlook is good for the 2009 harvest. We began harvesting our olive trees earlier this month and pressing the fruit into EVOO.

The person who manages our orchard operations and those of our contract growers, Adam Englehardt, told our guests through a megaphone yesterday “we should meet or beat our crop expectations.” Adam, pictured below in the photo, is standing in front of a large field of our trees in Artois.

To bring you up to date, we own more than 5,000 acres of olive trees at our three ranches in northern California. We cultivate another 5,000 acres through the growers we work with under contract. All told, we have a bit more than 6 million trees under cultivation on some 10,000 acres.

Adam Englehardt, Director of Orchard Services

After Adam’s talk, I walked our group through the adjacent mill, one of two we operate. People clearly were fascinated as they watched the green olives get transported up a conveyor belt and then sent through a powerful blower that removes the leaves and branches. The olives also get washed.

As I explained yesterday, the olives are then crushed and put into what are called malaxation tanks. They have large spiral paddles which turn slowly and separate the oil droplets from the fruit particles. The olive paste is sent to high-speed centrifuges to further separate the oil from any solid particles and water.

Finally, as I explained, the olive oil is pumped into temporary storage tanks before it’s trucked to our nearby facilities in Oroville for longer storage. We don’t filter our oil. Instead, the oil settles for a few months to allow Mother Nature to suck any remaining fruit particles to the bottom of the storage tanks.

It was great to hear our guests comment about the milling operations. People said they loved the fresh olive smell wafting through the mill. One wag joked we should bottle the smell.

An interesting idea – but not one ready for prime time. Instead, I think we’ll stay focused on harvesting our olives and bottling our extra virgin olive oil.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch