Shawn's Blog | The Olive Oil Source Wholesale Store

Shawn's Blog

Farming Realities

There is a lot of literature out there on the right way to do things in this industry whether it is planting, pruning, harvesting, milling, storage, or any of a number of other aspects of the business. In a perfect world they sound great and are what we strive for, but we see and hear a lot from people taking those points a little too far. Sometimes the physical or economic realities of the situation simply don’t allow you to do something the way it is described in a book. Pruning this year is a perfect example of that.

Ideally we’d like to prune, weather permitting, as soon as we finish harvesting. Often times this would drag out a bit as we avoid having open cuts on the trees close to rainfall, but that timing would be perfect. The problem is that we do not only mill olives from our own orchard. We also mill fruit we purchase and fruit for clients. Manpower tends to be in short supply at that time of year. This year, we finished milling late due to a very good crop, and once we had the time to really go after pruning, a month of wet weather moved in.

The result is we are still pruning in early April, which is not really ideal but there was no other option under the circumstances. Here Jose, our farm manager, works his way down a row of 10 year old Frantoio and Leccino trees.


April 5, 2018

Regulation

When I got into this business I had visions of sunset strolls through the orchard on warm summer evenings and enjoying a glass of wine or dining al fresco with a beautiful view over the orchard. It never occurred to me that as an added bonus I’d become a connoisseur of regulatory inspections.

I referenced regulation in an earlier post and some of the numerous regulatory agencies and paperwork we have to deal with. Apparently that was a harbinger of things to come as 3 days later, we got a surprise inspection from the F.D.A., which is a somewhat infrequent inspection. This one was particularly interesting, in so far as an inspection can be interesting, because it was done by an F.D.A. inspector as opposed to a state health inspector subcontracted to the F.D.A. as we have seen in the past. Most of the regulatory activity we go through is annual. So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, here is what I spent some of that day doing.

The inspection lasted about 3 hours. I of course had to drop everything I was doing to deal with the inspection, yet another loss of time. Similarly, all activity in the area of the inspection had to be stopped so that a coherent conversation could be had which meant reassigning everyone working in the area to other tasks, another time sink. That being said, regulation is part of our job and although it is an inconvenience, it is just part of the business. My feeling is, if you’re in the food industry and you’re not spending a large amount of your time dealing with regulation, you’re probably not a very legitimate company.

 

As a consumer, I love the regulation and as a businessperson it does have an upside. We approach regulation with the mentality that the inspections are good for us. The inspections are effectively free consulting since if the inspectors find things we can do better, that’s great. They are looking at us from an industry wide perspective and can give us insight we would not otherwise have access to. We’ve never had any issues with regulatory agencies, but we sure spend a lot of time (and money) doing inspections, filling out paperwork, and doing in house work to make sure we comply with each agency’s requirements.


April 3, 2018

The Roots of The Olive Oil Source and French varietals

John and Lisa Deane started The Olive Oil Source as a primarily informational site about olive oil and the olive oil industry. Today, many producers of olive oil in the U.S., my wife and I included, learned much of what they know about the industry by reading the immense amount of information the Deans posted. The site still has much of the information they posted, a lot of it updated and reorganized, and we still spend a substantial amount of time every day answering questions sent to us. This one just came in and I thought it was interesting. I was assigned to answering it.

We were asked why is it so hard to find oil from French varietals grown in the U.S.? My first reaction was that olive farming here was dominated by the canning industry for decades. That industry leaned towards varieties like Mission, Ascolano, Sevillano, and Manzanillo because they are large fruit and therefore ideal for table olives. When the oil industry started to pick up again in the 90's, people had to import tree stock and start new orchards or use the canning varietal fruit. Initially, the imported trees were predominantly the Italian varietals Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, and Maurino due to Americans’ association of olive oil with Italy and to the high oil yield of these varieties. Then with the advent of SHD production, Arbequina, Arbosano, and Koroneiki became the top varietals as those are the only ones cloned to grow in hedge rows. People did bring in other varietals but it was typically small time importation and propagation so they just didn't get established as quickly or as widely.

I wanted to check the veracity of this so I contacted Bruce Golino at Santa Cruz Olive Tree Nursery as his operation is one of the oldest growers of orchard stock for oil production. Bruce said that initially they did bring in some French varietals but they just did not generate the interest that the Italian varietals did. Currently there is reasonable production of French varietal oil in the Joshua Tree area (in fact we milled their fruit this year) and in the Colusa area.

If you’re not familiar with French varietals, probably the one that is most common here is Picholine. The one you see the most in the south of France is called Cailletier there and Taggiasca once you cross the border into Italy. This is a popular variety because the yield can be sky high and the oil is really mild. Other ones you might see a bit of in California are Aglandau, Luques, and Tanche. I have never seen any domestically-grown Salonenque, a variety I referred to in a previous post.

Photo: Old Cailletier trees in our olive orchard in France a few years ago

 


March 30, 2018

Flexibility

One of the basic principals of The Olive Oil Source is flexibility. We feel that the best service we can offer to our customers is to provide them with what they need and not require nor limit them to purchase everything from us. If they have a specific bottle they want to use that we don’t carry or want to label bottles themselves, fine. If for example, they have a direct tie to an E.V.O.O. (or anything else) producer in another country and want to augment those products with ones we have, that’s fine. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to give their operation a bit of personal flair and in our opinion, they are a lot more likely to succeed if they do.

Something we spend a lot of time doing is bottling and this is a perfect example of our flexibility. As we mill fruit for a lot of central coast wineries, they often have us bottle and label the olive oil too. Sometimes they use our glass, sometimes not. Currently we are bottling about 9,000 bottles for Stolpman Vineyards. We made their oil with fruit they grow and harvest, we’re bottling it in bottles they supplied but with closures and shrink wraps from The Olive Oil Source, and we’re doing the labeling with labels they sent to us. This morning I was checking in on the bottling progress of their order.

While bottling is essentially a very simple process, being appropriately licensed to is not. As we handle organic and non-organic products, just some of the regulation we have to adhere to is getting Processed Food Registrations and Organic Processed Food Registrations from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, have regular inspections from the state health department, surprise inspections from federal health inspectors, inspections from our organic certifier, annual certification from weights and measures, testing from the water quality control board, a documented food safety management system and our larger customers require a third party audit of our FSMS. That’s not all, but you get the point.


March 26, 2018

What makes The Olive Oil Source different?

One of the questions we get asked most often from potential new customers is what makes The Olive Oil Source different from our competitors. For me, what makes us different is what we are not. Virtually all of our competitors are people who have gotten into this business as merchants and bring a sales and marketing background to their businesses. For better or worse, we don’t come from that background nor do we bring that mentality to the business.

A perfect example of this is some of the E.V.O.O.’s we’re offering this year. Our Ascolano and Mission are coming from an orchard managed by our mill manager and I have worked with the owner since 2010 to improve their growing activities. Our Manzanillo comes from another orchard that we first got involved with in 2005, helping them solve some difficult pest control issues they were experiencing. Then there are our gourmet flavored oils that are currently being made with fruit from an orchard in the Santa Ynez Valley. I have been working with the owner of that orchard since 2012 in order to get good quantity and quality production from it.

All this to say our business isn’t just a store. We haven’t gone through a catalog, picked out products we think we can resale with a generous margin and otherwise spend our time focusing on our supply chain. We are much more involved with the products we sell and going forward, now that I’ve given a little background about us, I hope to show you this in this blog. 

Photo: Barrel tasting Ascolano E.V.O.O. 3/18


March 23, 2018

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog. My name is Shawn Addison and I am the owner of The Olive Oil Source. I decided it would be a good idea to share some of what I do on a day to day basis. I want to show our customers the importance we place on quality in our business and why we are qualified to make the decisions we do.

I don’t want to bore you with an entire resume so here are some of the highlights of my background as they pertain to this business. Going way, way back, I have a masters from The Food Research Institute at Stanford University. I have been in the olive oil business since 1998 and have planted and managed orchards in France and the U.S. Additionally, my wife and I have owned an olive mill since 2003 and have worked in the mill, not just owned it. I’ve dealt first hand with fun challenges like trying to mill over-ripe Mission fruit too soon after rain, or trying to get a reasonable yield out of green Ascolano fruit.

Additionally, I have been consulting on orchards, mill installations, and olive oil start-ups and established producers for over 10 years. I’ve worked with clients in much of the U.S. as well as in Mexico, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan, and even Bhutan. I’ve seen a lot of sick trees, gorgeous orchards, poor mill layouts, beautiful milling facilities and tasted everything from horrible oil you want to spit out to some of the most divine delicate oil you can imagine (like Chateau d’Estoublon’s single varietal Salonenque). This is my business, I love it and I want to share it with our customers.

I encourage you to come back and check my posts or to subscribe to the RSS feed in the right column.


March 21, 2018