15 Oct

Olives Growth Potential in Oregon

By Greg Stiles,
Photo Bob Pennell,

Will olives be the successor to pears and grapes? One Rogue Valley farm has decided to test the market. What appears to be a massive new vineyard between Bellinger Lane and old Jacksonville Highway isn’t really a vineyard at all.

The 140-acre apron, once part of the Clancy Orchard east of Jacksonville, is actually the beginnings of the Rogue Valley’s latest agricultural wave.

Jeff Hoyal, of Hoyal Farms Inc., has planted nearly 124 acres of new-generation olive trees whose fruit will be converted to olive oil. Neighbors Robert and Nancy Wartenbergh planted another six acres at the same time Hoyal planted his grove in August.

The first harvest is expected in 2011, although it will take five years for the plants to mature to capacity.

“We saw the growth in that industry, and olives will typically grow where grapes grow,” says the 47-year-old Hoyal. “As the pear industry is going bye-bye and grapes coming into their own, we suspect olives will be another component of the Rogue Valley economy. Generally, olives are pretty hardy and crops are easier to raise than grapes and don’t have as many difficulties.”

The agricultural land has gone through several ownership changes in recent years.

A group called Reality Kats, with ties to Hoyal, purchased the orchard land from Naumes Inc., for $1.75 million in July 2005. Hoyal paid $2 million for it in August of 2007.

“We knew we weren’t going to stay in pears, there’s no money there,” Hoyal says. “We looked at grapes, but every 20 to 25 years you have to tear them out and put them in again. The wine business is so competitive that in California there are a lot of grapes being torn out that are not being replaced.”

Olive groves have traditionally been planted in warm, arid climates, but the rewards and newer generation trees suggest less risk than once presumed.

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