Canadian Olive Farm Presses Its Own Oil
The Olive Farm is currently the only commercial olive farm that presses its own oil in Canada. When George and Sheri Braun considered trying to grow olives in a more northerly climate than typical, they looked around and settled on a south-facing slope in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, which has good exposure and drainage.
  Olives thrive in mild Mediterranean climates, and while hardy, they don’t like overly wet weather.
  “In B.C., we get rain and barely enough hours of sunlight, so that’s a knock right there,” says Sheri Braun. “With our short growing season, we watch the weather like a hawk for signs of freezing and try to squeeze out every hour of sunlight we can. Then we call the harvest when the weather turns.”
  With the lack of sunlight hours, none of the olive varieties the Braun’s have tried growing reach a fully ripened stage. Surprisingly, this has worked to the farm’s advantage as they are forced to pick the olives green when they contain high polyphenols, high antioxidants, and low acidity.
  “We were somewhat amazed that this made our oil popular,” Sheri says. “We’re unique with our dark emerald green color, taste, and viscosity. It’s been well received by top chefs.”
  She explains it takes about 10 of the farm’s trees to equal the same amount of oil harvested from one tree in prime olive-growing countries. The Olive Farm’s 3,000 trees are all harvested by hand, which adds up to extra manual work for the family members and the few staff they’re able to hire.
  A large amount of labor is dedicated to replacing the 10 percent of trees that die each year due to weather challenges.
  Last year, their 7th year of production, the Brauns realized their largest yield of 339 liters. Previous years’ production ranged from zero when frost destroyed the olives, to around 75 liters.
  Prices for their unique olive oil are roughly $125 (Can.) for a 200-milliliter bottle.
  “It’s farming, no matter what you do, there are challenges in nature and things you can’t control, so we’ll always consider ourselves ‘aspiring’ olive farmers,” Sheri says. “We’ve been more successful than we could’ve envisioned with people across the country supporting us. Strangers write to us with encouragement, and restaurants go on waiting lists for our oil.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, The Olive Farm, 1901 Fulford-Ganges Rd., Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada (ph 604-765-8530; info@theolivefarm.ca; www.theolivefarm.ca).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #6