22 Apr

Olive oil industry, production getting bigger by moment

By Reed Fujii,

LODI – Olive oil production in California is a hot ticket.

About 130 people joined in a two-day class offered Friday and Saturday in Lodi by the University of California, and others had to be turned away, said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center. California olive oil production still is small but growing rapidly.

“Right now, we do about 500,000 gallons a year, and in four years it’s probably going to be 2 million gallons,” Flynn said Friday at Corto Olive. The plant between Stockton and Lodi is one of the largest and newest oil-processing plants in California.

What’s driving the boom is a new low-cost production approach: planting dwarf olive varieties in dense hedgerows, allowing them to be gathered by mechanical grape harvesters instead of labor-intensive traditional methods.

Corto and a sister company, Lodi Farming, provide a model for this approach, called super-high-density planting, and served as an outdoor classroom for the UC short course.

Organizers said the event drew farmers interested in both large- and small-scale olive production, as well those who might serve the new industry, such as nursery growers and agricultural lenders.

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