Fall is right around the corner. For California Olive Ranch’s family farmers, this means preparations are in full swing for a fruitful olive harvest. Across the board, the orchards are healthy and full of promise. “We have plenty of fruit on the trees for a good crop,” says field operations manager Lizandro Magaña.
Prolonged drought in California has challenged growers to provide the trees enough water to produce top-notch fruit without negatively impacting the state’s water woes. “Although the trees have a really high tolerance for lack of water, we still need to be careful that we don’t cross the fine-line between deficit irrigation and overly stressing the trees,” says Lizandro. Fortunately, extensive research on the drought tolerance of olive trees has allowed growers to use water in the most efficient manner possible.
During the month of August, growers are also applying the last of the nutrients, monitoring fruit maturity, mowing grasses, and getting the orchard floors prepared for harvest. “It’s somewhat of a race against the clock”, says Brian Mori, grower and field representative, “an urgency compounded by four years of drought conditions, milder winters and hotter summers, and predictions for an early, wet fall on the horizon”.
“Typically, we would begin harvest in the middle of October but with the advancement of the crop we may be harvesting as early as September,” says Brian. Despite the dual challenges of drought and heat, growers say this year’s olive crop will be healthy and heavy. For that reason, Lizandro is working closely with the California Olive Ranch mill to ensure a smooth ride from the field to processing.
“With the crop being as heavy as it is this year, we need to work closely with the mill to get them the best fruit possible, at the most appropriate time,” he says optimistically. “It takes a huge amount of collaboration between departments to succeed.”