By Beverly Burmeier,
Poor soil, high temperatures, and low water levels are all plentiful in central Texas. Not the usual growing conditions for a food crop, this combination just happens to be perfect for olive trees. So Jack Dougherty, former president of a computer company, bought a ranch near Wimberley and became the first person to grow olives in Texas.
Since he grew up among Italian farmers in California, Dougherty’s Bella Vista Ranch follows the classic format of Italian agriculture with which he was familiar.
The working cattle ranch includes an olive orchard in the front 20 acres, specialty fruit trees, and producing vegetable and herb gardens.
Dougherty takes pride in his success with items not generally grown in central Texas: almonds, cherries, apricots, apples, asparagus, artichokes, arugula, oriental persimmons, and table grapes. Each spring the ranch’s 1000 plus blackberry bushes become prime territory for pick-it-yourself visitors—followed by red raspberries from June until October.
But his specialty is producing olives. With more than 800 olive trees representing seven different varieties, the ranch produces and bottles fresh pressed olive oil– the first commercial venture of this kind in Texas. It’s not unusual for hundreds of people to visit Bella Vista ranch in a day, with the numbers swelling during berry-picking season.
Planted in 1998, his trees first produced olives in 2001. “I’ve been around trees my whole life and know that harsher soils are really better,” Dougherty says of the caliche (clay) soil. “Besides, olive trees take very little water and are almost bird and bug proof.” Since recorded history documents olive trees dating back thousands of years, he knows that once an olive tree starts to produce, it will continue for a long time.
With modern equipment in the on-site frantoio (building with presses), The Texas Olive Oil Company (www.texasoliveoil.com) produces a very high quality oil that is ready for delivery to the public as soon as it has settled. The company also bottles and distributes custom blended fresh California and Italian olive oils and manufactures jams and sauces (using fresh fruits and herbs grown in the ranch gardens), and pure Castile soap, made with virgin olive oil.
Tours of the orchards and frantoio are available, as well as olive oil and wine tastings.
[Source] Click here