25 Oct

Californian Olive growers see low crop this year

By Sean Janssen,

The fortunes of Californian olive growers are mixed this year.

In Jamestown, grower Leslie Hurst said her Hurst Ranch Feeds & Fencing crop looks to be following a statewide trend of light tonnage as weather has taken its toll on this year’s crop.

The California Farm Bureau Federation Food and Farm News reports that, as the California harvest nears its halfway point of completion, some groves have no olives or so few that they will not be harvested. Yields are varying from less than one ton per acre to three tons or more per acre. Thus far, more than 17,000 tons have been sent to processors from California groves. Carryover from last season is expected to keep retail stores supplied with olives all year.

“Olives are an every-other-year crop normally. This is definitely the off year,” Hurst said. “There was not much rain last year. The bloom came really late. Normally, (it would be) around the 15th of April. This year, it was in May.”

Frost that hurt winegrape growers badly in the late spring did not extend its misfortune to olive trees, she said, saying any effects of the cold snap were very minimal. However, the dryness brought on a much lighter harvest this year for Hurst when compared to 2007.

‘We’ll have maybe one to two tons of olives this year,” Hurst said. “Last year, it was eight tons.”

Despite this, there should be plenty enough oil to meet customer demands, she said, adding with a chuckle, “it’s just that you do a lot of work” for less return in off years like this one.

Across the river, where olives are considered a signature Calaveras County-grown crop, growers are reporting less of a downturn than in other parts of the state.

Jim Melson, who owns Winter Creek Olives in Valley Springs, and specialized in extra virgin olive oil, said his harvest will not commence until Nov. 7 but he anticipates that “overall, the quality’s going to be great. The yield is probably going to be about average.”

Melson expects his approximately 235 trees should produce about 3,000 pounds of olives, a typical harvest. Likewise, Bill Broll, owner of Broll Mountain Vineyards near Murphys, a grape grower who produces extra virgin olive oil as well, said he is expecting an average harvest.

‘We don’t, at the moment, see a smaller harvest like we had with the grapes this year,” Broll said.

Broll’s experience has been much the opposite of his counterpart in Tuolumne County as he said last year proved to be a lighter year for his olive harvest.

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