Let the fall olive harvest begin! Trucks are delivering freshly picked olives to our mill here in northern California. The milling team and I are then crushing them into extra virgin olive oil. Over the next several weeks, our field crews will gather olives from trees planted across some 15,000 acres in northern California.
This year’s olive crop is excellent! To tell you more about it, we checked in with one of our ranchers, Brian Mori. Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on crop practices, harvest, and quality. Below, he talks about this year’s crop and how we choose when to begin the harvest.
How do you know when to begin the harvest?
We look at the maturity of the fruit across all our orchards, and decide whether there’s enough mature fruit to justify opening the mill and starting the harvest. We look for things in the fruit like the color of the olive and the oil content. We do that by collecting fruit samples, which are then sent to our lab and analyzed.
What factors play a role in determining the maturity of the olives?
How the growing season progresses. This year we’re tending to be two weeks early as a general rule in terms of the development of the olive fruit. We had a warm early spring. So this year’s opening of the mill was more than two weeks earlier than in 2012. We opened it then in the third week of October. This week we opened it in the second week of October. It’s going to be an early harvest year across all our olive varieties – Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki.
Overall the size of the fruit itself looks to be above average. That’s mostly because we had an early warm spring and good growing conditions over the course of the summer. In terms of the size of the crop, that’s also slightly above average.
How long a harvest do you anticipate?
A 40 day window has always been our goal. We’re always hopeful for dry conditions. After the summer heat, we definitely started to see some seasonally cool weather going into harvest. We’ve already had some early fall showers. We can’t harvest during the rain, because we can’t get the equipment into the field. Also, harvesting in the rain can lead to a disease called olive knot. In terms of the end of harvest, our goal is to be finished by the last week of November.