Our fall harvest was one for the record books. It was our biggest ever. We checked in with my colleague Brian Mori to tell us more about the harvest. In our chat, Brian also explained how our olive trees weather the winter – and what next to expect when we head into spring. Brian works with our family farmers, or contract growers, on crop practices, harvest, and quality.
The 2013 olive harvest was the most successful in our history. What made it such a success?
It was a very high-yielding olive crop. We had favorable weather conditions over the season, allowing the olives to maximize the amount of oil they produce. In a nutshell, we had a very early spring, meaning the olive’s development was early, too. With the earlier season and ideal growing conditions, the trees were at their peak production when we harvested them. Most growers, in fact, saw very good oil production this year as well as great quality.
How were the weather conditions during harvest?
Very favorable – we had dry conditions throughout the harvest. That allowed us to harvest at the peak of both production and quality. Because of the weather, this harvest was very fast paced and condensed. We were able to harvest around the clock. Typically, we get three or four rains that interrupt harvest. Not this time.
What’s the weather been like more recently?
These last two months have marked some of the driest months on record in California. We’ve had almost zero rainfall. Usually by this time we’ve gotten 15 to 20 inches since early to mid-October. So far we’ve received less than 5 inches. It’s the topic among farmers right now – in particular, water use and the availability of water for irrigation.
Some farmers have seen cutbacks in the amount of water they can use for irrigation. Everyone is anxiously watching the weather reports. Fortunately, olives don’t require a lot of water. Still, we’ve got to be very cognizant of our water use and monitor it very closely.
What are the trees doing now that winter has set in?
They’re in a period of semidormancy. Even though it’s been dry, we have cold winter nights that put the trees in semidormancy. The only difference this year is we’ve had to irrigate the trees during winter, because it’s been so dry. Typically, they get water from winter rains.
What and when is the next milestone in tree and olive development?
That will come in spring when the trees come out of their semidormancy. They enter their rush of spring growth, and they begin to bloom and flower. The flowers that develop have the potential of becoming this year’s olive crop.
California Olive Ranch Master Miller Bob Singletary