What makes the USA East Coast a great place to produce Olive Oil?Olive Oil is one of the few widely used food products on the East Coast where there is not a local source. The olive tree varieties used in the Super High Density (SHD) type of farming have been selectively bred (not genetically modified) to make them more cold hardy, thus making it more logical to plant trees here in the South now.
What has been the reaction of consumers to Georgia Olive Farm's Olive Oil?The reaction has been tremendous and we are blown away from all the support. Many of the Top Chef’s here in The South are using the oil and helping promote this new industry. This kind of support is what has kept us motivated and willing to continue pressing forward.
How would you compare the "Chef's Blend EVOO" to an Italian Olive Oil?I think the freshness of our product is what sets it apart. Olive Oil does not get better with age and Italians know this better than anyone. Our Chef’s Blend is a blend of our three varieties that makes it perfect for cooking with and also for using as a finishing oil. We also enjoy using this oil for dipping bread in. It is so fresh and tasty even when used by itself and nothing added to it.
Can you tell us more about how you limit your "carbon footprint" by providing Olive Oil from Georgia?More than 98% of the olive oil we consume in this country is imported so we can certainly cut back on carbon footprint emissions simply by producing the oil here at home and not having to ship across the world.
How has Georgia's climate and natural resources played a part in the farming of the olives?We knew that there was a lot of risk involved trying to grow something here for the first time on a commercial basis. Our first big concern was not knowing if it might be too cold for the trees to survive the winter. The first two winters after we planted we’re extremely cold so that was a good test and thankfully we didn’t have any mortality from that. Our next major concern was humidity and we have been able to easily deal with that by spraying a basic copper fungicide application three or four times per year.
Tell us more about the push for the government to get involved in creating olive oil standards.We need better standards in the US because we are basically the dumping ground for low quality oil. Initial tests of many of the major imported brands showed that 69% of the olive oil that is labeled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil was defective and mislabeled. Better standards would protect consumers by making sure people are getting what they are paying for and also provide more of a level playing field for domestic and imported producers.
How would you describe your Olive Oil production process?We have a brand new mill we are using this year that produces high quality oil but it is a small capacity system. We are planning to build a larger facility in the near future that will process 3 tons per hour and then expand that facility as needed by adding additional lines and more equipment. The milling systems being built now are much more efficient and also produce higher quality oils than previous ones because of the improved technology involved. These new systems can remove all the elements such as excessive heat and oxygen which are known to cause defects in oil. We only run the paste from the crushed olives through the mill one time so we only get the first press and the temperature in the malaxing tanks is kept at a low temperature so that our oil is also cold pressed.
Are you looking to expand your Olive Oil offerings in the future?Yes, we are doing everything we can to grow this new industry here by providing trees and consulting services to other growers. We even completely manage several orchards for other growers. We doubled our acreage this year on our farm so we now have over 35,000 trees in our three orchards. We’ve also planted close to 100,000 trees for other growers, most of that just planted this year. These new plantings should start producing fruit in 3 to 4 years and hit full production in the fifth year.