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California olive oil industry a vat of market potential

Mechanical harvesting and new California olive oil mills are priming a sluggish olive industry, as growers in the state rapidly plant olive oil tree varieties and break into what's historically been an import market.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Dan Kennedy, a farmer in the north Sacramento Valley, used to gaze out over his swampy rice fields or undulating alfalfa. These days, his property in Artois is more likely to have trellised hedgerows of sage-colored bushes bearing a tiny, lime-green fruit.

There's oil in those hedges, a "liquid gold" that reflects a contemporary California rush.

"They're a perfect fit for marginal soils, and use less water," Kennedy said of his 5-year-old olive orchards. "We're pretty happy with them."

Mechanical harvesting and new California olive oil mills are priming a sluggish olive industry, as growers in the state rapidly plant olive oil tree varieties and break into what's historically been an import market.

Spanish missionaries introduced olive plantings to California in the 1700s, and Spaniards rebooted the business in the late 1990s with technological advances and an infusion of cash.

Already, the California Olive Ranch, which began with initial capital from Spanish investors, has built two mills in the Sacramento Valley, with 60 growers signing contracts with the firm, many of them converting land from thirstier crops, such as nuts or the area's iconic rice, to the hardier and drought-resistant olive tree.

For more, see: Growing olive demand spurs 'liquid gold' rush

TAGS: Outlook
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