When I think about the historic olive crop just recently harvested in South Georgia I can’t help but be proud. I am proud of the young men who saw a crop opportunity for the southeastern United States and made it happen. Those young men are brothers, Jason and Sam Shaw, and cousin, Kevin Shaw, of Georgia Olive Farms.
Shortly after the Shaws’ brought in their harvest I had a chance to talk to Jason. I’ve known Jason and Sam’s parents, Jay and Libby, for a long time. Jay and I served together in the Georgia House of Representatives and Jason now serves in his father’s former position.
This year Georgia Olive Farms harvested about three tons of the Arbequina variety of olives. The harvest yielded approximately 100 gallons of extra virgin olive oil. Jason said that the demand for “quality, local-grown product, instead of cheap, imported oil is growing”, and to keep up with the demand for their fresh, local olive oil they would first store the oil in bulk for a month then bottle the oil in 375ml bottles (half the size of a wine bottle). This size bottle would yield about 700 to 1000 bottles. The bottles are small but the demand is huge.
So where is the demand coming from? The answer is – southern chefs. Georgia Olive Farms has received many requests from throughout the southeast for fresh, Georgia olive oil to enhance local restaurant fare.
I asked Jason, how they were going to meet the demand. He said that in addition to increasing their acreage, Georgia Olive Farms is “working with other states” and new growers to meet the demand. Jason also said that Georgia Olive Farms and other business associates have started a new venture, the Georgia Olive Tree Nursery, LLC. The nursery project is “committed to grow olive trees to recommended size, and will be able to offer varying-sized trees” to prospective growers.
I commented to Jason that it sounded like they knew what they were doing. He laughed, “We haven’t done anything by-the-book, because (in our region) there isn’t one. We took extra precautions to make sure our fruit was protected. There is not one, single corner we’ve cut.” Jason then credited his brother, Sam, as the person who made sure the trees were lovingly and carefully tended to.
Sam has certainly done a great job. After visiting many US olive orchards this year, the trees at Georgia Olive Farms were among the healthiest I’ve seen.
Jason’s final words to me before taking a much needed family vacation were, “This (olive farming) is no different than any other farming. It is susceptible to Mother Nature. You can’t just expect the trees to grow themselves. You must work to keep them healthy.”
I wish Georgia Olive Farms continued success.
May the sun shine through your branches.