Brian Mori is catching up on his sleep over the holidays, now that our olive harvest is completed. We wrapped up the harvest at the end of November. Over the course of six weeks, Brian and other members of our harvest and milling teams put in long hours and weekends picking the olives and crushing them into extra virgin olive oil.
Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on matters like crop practices, harvest, and quality. We asked him about this year’s harvest – our largest ever, and the biggest of its kind in California.
When did the harvest end?
We took our last load of olives in on Friday, Nov. 30. We got our first weekend off in about 50 days. I went home and I got my first good night of sleep in a long time!
What kind of hours were you working?
(Laughs) Anywhere from 14 to 16 hours a day – at a minimum. That’s pretty typical for our field team. I would usually arrive at the ranch between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., and finish up around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. We harvested 24 hours a day on our own orchards. We mostly had 12-hour shifts on the orchards operated by our contract growers – unless there were weather concerns such as rain. In that case, we might harvest additional hours to beat the rain.
We definitely had some late rains – more rain than we had last year. That tended to take the season out a little longer than we would have liked. The rain probably cost us five or six additional days. On the plus side, we had almost no frost damage this year. That was one thing we were definitely able to avoid – even with the longer season.
What were the crop yields like?
We had an above average Arbequina crop, an average Arbosana crop, and an above average crop of Koroneiki. In all, we harvested more than 1,000 truckloads of olives. It was the largest harvest crop we’ve ever had at California Olive Ranch, and the largest olive oil harvest in California’s history.
We’ve begun shipping our 2012 Limited Reserve. How do you like to use it in your own kitchen?
I typically like to serve it by itself because it’s so robust and flavorful. For example, at holiday parties I like to serve it for dipping bread. I also like to drizzle it on top of green eating olives, along with a little salt and pepper. That’s always very popular with friends and family.
What’s your biggest takeaway from this year’s harvest?
The coordination between our milling and field teams was some of the best I’ve ever seen – particularly given the issues we faced. Weather issues – as I mentioned – along with the largest olive oil crop California has ever seen. All that requires a lot of trust and cooperation within our departments. It was a job well done.
Your friends at California Olive Ranch