By Glenn Wallace,
Father Michael Mahoney, pastor of Mission Santa Inès, speaks at a Wednesday morning press conference. “Where I stand is what I think is the most hallowed view in this valley,” he said in discussing the mission’s plans to plant a grove of olive trees in the lower field behind him.
The new project at Mission Santa Inès is going to be the pits – along with the fruit and the trees of a new olive grove.
Father Michael Mahoney of the Mission has announced that roughly 40 acres of the flatland below the mission, on the bank of Alamo Pintado Creek, would be planted with olive trees in partnership with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the Santa Barbara Olive Co.
Craig Makela, who owns the Santa Barbara Olive Co. and serves on the executive board of the Trust for Historic Preservation, said his company will oversee planting, which will begin shortly after July 4, and will be completed by the end of August.
The company, based in Goleta, announced plans in February to open a packing plant in Santa Maria.
“Not only is an olive grove truly appropriate historically, it will further enhance the stunning view across the Valley from the mission,” Mahoney at a press conference June 27.
The earliest recorded harvesting of olives was done at the California missions in 1803. Historic photographs of the Santa Inès Mission confirms that the lower field did at one time include an olive grove, the ancestors of which still can be seen around the property edges.
Mahoney pointed to the several olive trees that still adorn the front of the mission.
“That’s what the trees of the olive grove will look like in five years time,” he said.
The mission owns 15 acres of the lower field, and is asking the community to sponsor tree plantings. From $5 for a single tree, up to $4,000 for an entire acre (120 trees) are being offered to be planted either “in honor of“ or “in memory of” loved ones.
“It is a way of truly making living history,” said Mahoney of the dedications.
The tree sponsorship offer went out to the mission congregation last week, with more than 200 of the estimated 1,800 trees claimed so far.
The general public is also welcome to participate by calling 688-4815, Ext. 40, or by stopping by the mission gift shop.
“My husband wanted to see the mission and we just came in and listened to the talk,” said Andrea Navarro of Santa Monica.
The couple and their 4-month-old daughter listened to Mahoney describe the olive tree project and decided to purchase a tree themselves.
“It just sounds like a great idea, and we definitely support preserving the historic nature of the missions,” said Navarro.
The field had been farmed infrequently by both the Historic Trust and the mission, both of which reported marginal success at working the land.
According to the Historic Trust Executive Director Jarrell Jackman, when his group decided to shift to the historically accurate, more aesthetic, lower maintenance and hopefully revenue producing olive orchard, they approached the mission to see if planting the other portion of the field would be possible. With the Santa Barbara Olive Co. an agreement was formed, where the olive company would plant the orchard at below cost, and maintain it until maturity, five years hence.
“Our job is to help both the mission and the trust to maintain the orchard and eventually harvest the fruit,” said Makela.
“It’s just our way of saying thanks to the community.”
The Santa Barbara Olive Co. planted approximately 100 trees as part of a similar arrangement at the Santa Barbara Mission, which Makela says has worked out well.
The grove plans include maintaining a section of open ground near the Mission to be used as a picnic spot, and as the staging area for the annual Santa Ynez Valley fireworks show.
Mahoney also mentioned the creation of a “meandering path, so people can get lost in that beautiful grove.”
Jackman confirmed that the Historic Trust intends for a trail through the olive grove to connect the mission’s historic mill sites, on the bank of Alamo Pintado Creek, and the mission proper.
“In a certain sense, it’s phase one of a state park,” said Mahoney, referring to the Historic Trust and the mission’s continuing plans to include the mill site, and the field into the state park system. Mahoney said the grove would remain and be incorporated into any state park plan.
Once the trees have matured, they can produce revenue for the Land Trust and mission, allowing both groups to either sell the crop or to try to produce olive-related products themselves.
“Those are questions we still have to answer,” said Jackman.
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