We’ve finally gotten some rain – not enough to break California’s historic drought, but enough to give us hope that relief will arrive this winter in the form of more precipitation. Fortunately, olive trees tolerate drought pretty well. In the orchards, the olives are getting bigger and our crews are looking ahead to the fall harvest. Rancher Brian Mori gives us an update. Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on crop practices, harvest, and quality.
Do you have a handle yet on how big an olive crop we’ll have come fall?
It looks like we’re going to have a pretty decent crop again this year. The amount of olives will be down slightly from last year’s record harvest. But the quality should be just as good as last year’s crop.
Has the drought persisted – or are there any signs of it letting up?
We’ve had some strange weather over the summer. We had southern tropical storms come through and drop localized rain in areas. It didn’t break the drought. But we’re hoping those storms will at least hydrate the trees for now. We’re also hopeful we’re going to have a good rainfall this winter. These kind of storms are an early indication of an “El Niño” year involving above-average precipitation.
How are the trees handling the dry weather?
We’ve been able to manage the drought. It’s not been ideal. But olives are more drought tolerant than other tree crops. And we’ve been irrigating the trees with whatever water we can. We’re also still hopeful we’ll have enough water reserves to come through this winter. In California, we really depend on the snowpack in the mountains to refill our reservoirs and our ground water supplies.
What are the trees doing now that we’re moving into late summer and early fall?
The trees are just starting to build up oil – it’s what we call the oil accumulation phase. The fruit starts maturing, growing in size, and accumulating oil.
What’s keeping you and the other ranchers busy at this time?
Harvest is going to be coming around the corner sooner than you think. So we’re starting to transition into harvest preparation. That involves training our crews on harvest equipment and harvesters. It also means we’re cleaning up and making sure everything is mowed on the ranch – mainly the grass and other growth in between the rows of trees. We’ll also be training the crews on safety measures. And we’ll make sure we have all of our supplies to ensure the harvest runs as smoothly as possible.