Our 2010 Olive Harvest: A Sprint to the Finish

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Adam Englehardt got a couple of weeks of well deserved rest over the holidays. He spent October and November working practically day and night to ensure we got our northern California olive harvest done before frost zapped any crop still remaining on the trees after Thanksgiving. Adam and his team succeeded, after putting in a grueling 30-hour stretch at the end.

Adam is the manager of our farming operations. We asked him about his work in what is the first of a two-part Q&A.

What was the weather like this past harvest?

It was a late harvest. We had a lot of rain last spring. Our bud break — when new buds begin to appear on our trees in the spring — was about 2-1/2 weeks behind where it ordinarily would be. The summer also was cool. Because of a late bud break and a cool summer, the fruit matured more slowly. So when we began the harvest the fruit was greener. It produced a more intense flavor — fruitier and a bit more pungent — than what we’d ordinarily get.

When did the harvest begin and end?

Our first day was Oct. 18. Normally, we’d begin on the 12th. We waited because the fruit was maturing more slowly. Even after waiting the extra six days, we had a bit of a greener, fruitier flavor profile. We completed our harvest on Nov. 30. Typically we’re done right about Thanksgiving. It ran about four days later than usual.

Was there much rain?

There were about three periods we had to stop harvesting because of rain. That’s about normal. We have to stop if we have more than three inches of rain in a few days, because it’s so muddy we can’t get the equipment into the field. Fortunately, the rain isn’t detrimental to the quality of the crop. We try to “stress” the trees going into harvest by not giving them as much water in a process called deficit irrigation. It intensifies the flavor of the oil and also speeds the ripening process.

Did you encounter any frost?

There was a frost at the tail end of the harvest. But we were able to get our crop off ahead of the frost. We had to speed up just a bit near the very end. But we were on track to be done by Thanksgiving anyway. So it worked out rather well.

However, quite a few of the other millers in the Lodi and Fresno areas south of us had quite a bit of their crop damaged, because they begin their harvest so much later in these areas. In a lot of cases they didn’t begin their harvests until the 15th of November.

What is your favorite harvest story?

This was my third harvest for California Olive Ranch. One of my favorite stories was this year. We’ve expanded our harvest fleet as our acreage grows. We now have eight harvesting machines. We had all eight harvesting in the same field at one time running for 30 hours straight to get everything off ahead of that frost. The team worked 30 hours straight.

Bon appétit,

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