Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
Oct 072011

Here is the latest olive farming attempt in the southeastern United States. From Bay News 9 in St. Petersburg, FL is a video featuring entrepreneurs, Cambren Davis and Deirdre Rizzo.

After viewing the video I wanted to make sure I made a few points to clear up some misconceptions  stated by Davis and Rizzo and repeated by the newscaster.

Davis states they’re “trying to reintroduce them (olives) as a cash crop for Florida”, but they don’t officially get that pleasure. There are olive pioneers already in Florida.

Three pioneers I can think of are Tony and Shirley Valenza of Olive Branch Tree Farm in Citra, FL and Don Mueller of Green Gate Olive Grove in Jackson County, FL. If there are more, I apologize. The point is, Rizzo and Davis are not the first, but Olive Crazy says to them – ‘welcome aboard to this rapidly expanding global market’.

As Jason Shaw of Georgia Olive Farms reminded me a few weeks ago, “This (growing olives) is no different than any other farming. It is susceptible to Mother Nature. You still have to deal with the elements. You can’t just grow trees – you have to work hard to keep them healthy.” Jason’s statement is a point that I think gets missed as farmers (especially new ones) across the US get excited about commercially growing olive trees.

Olive growing is not a panacea for all that ails the citrus industry or any another agricultural industry. People who think it is, aren’t paying attention to the world olive markets and are looking for quick fixes. Growing olives on a large, commercial scale is very costly, from beginning to end. Olive Crazy likes when people are excited about a new olive project, but lack of realism leads to big disappointments.

The US needs a strong and powerful olive industry, not a weak and unfocused one.

I wish Cambren Davis and Deirdre Rizzo all the best. I love Brooksville and have many fond memories of spending time at the University of South Florida’s Chinsegut Hill with classmates from USF’s History Department – education and a lot of Frisbee throwing. Maybe future students will get to sample local olives, olive oil, and olive leaf tea. It’s a pleasant thought.

May the sun shine through your branches.


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