Sep 112012

I was at the local “big box” store purchasing school supplies for my youngest son. While traversing the aisles I passed an angry man arguing with a sales clerk. “I want what I bought, damn it” he hollered. I feel your pain buddy, I thought.

Was this man’s sentiment reasonable? I didn’t know, yet without knowing the circumstances surrounding his complaint, I was immediately sympathetic. Why? Because this is how I feel each time I place an item in my shopping cart. I too want what I bought – damn it!

This morning I read an article from the National Journal entitled Why a Lobbying Fight Broke Out Over Olive Oil. It evoked in me that visceral acrimony most of us feel when we or those we care about are wronged. I felt cheated – again, by those same folks who are perpetually cheating us purchasers of olive oil.

Here’s the bulletized back story to the article from the National Journal.

  • Scientific evidence and sensory evaluation proved that both adulterated (fake) olive oil and low-quality olive oil are posing as extra virgin (an actual legal designation) and are currently residing on your grocery shelf.
  • This stuff, which is not what you or I paid for, is being sold around the world to unsuspecting consumers.
  • The sellers of this stuff are major companies who know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and don’t care.
  • These major companies exercise control by making up the voting and decision-making membership on most European regulatory, standards, and trade organizations.
  • They laugh at us while smoking their big cigars and sipping their grappa. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
  • United States olive growers and extra virgin olive oil producers got mad and decided to take action against this organized mob by developing a set of voluntary standards for themselves. This set of standards is called a marketing order and it only applies to olive oil producers from the United States – no one else.
  • Who could object to a US industry’s desire to self-regulate for the benefit of consumers? The same creeps that are controlling the non-regulation, non-standards, non-enforcement in Europe, that’s who.
  • In the United States the “creeps” operate through the North American Olive Oil Association, a trade association for olive oil importers. Not all olive oil importers are bad guys, but Olive Crazy is throwing the baby out with the bath water. They know what their colleagues are up to.
  • When the US olive growers and olive oil producers decided to regulate themselves, the membership of the NAOOA launched an attack campaign and created another fakery. They set up a group called the Alliance for Olive Oil Quality Standards. A rose by any other name … Now substitute for ‘rose’ a word depicting the smelly product of digestive elimination … Yup, that’s what I mean.
  • The Alliance for Olive Oil Quality Standards spent $80,000.00 to hire a powerful, Washington DC lobbying firm to coerce, with dinners and campaign contributions, the members of the United States Congress to kill the US olive growers and olive oil producers attempt to regulate their own industry. Why?
  • They don’t want us to get what we bought.
  • Damn it!!!!!!!

If you are sick of not getting what you bought then please take the advice of this lowly olive and olive oil enthusiast/champion of consumers everywhere/champion of all producers of great olive oil, and buy your olive oil from olive oil producers in your own country. Folks that you have learned to know and trust. Here are three of my current favorites in the United States:

The Olive Press (California)

California Olive Ranch (California)

Georgia Olive Farms (Georgia). Please note, they have a small grove and are sold out, but will have more evoo available later this fall or in the early winter. It’s great and it goes fast.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Apr 132012

This past Wednesday, Adam Englehardt of California Olive Ranch gave a two-part presentation to members of the Georgia Olive Growers Association, some Florida growers, USDA employees, Congressional staffers, and other involved parties. The first part of the presentation was data to support the proposed marketing order and the second part was a section by section look at the order.

No, I’m not going to divulge any aspects of the actual marketing order. I am honor-bound not to do so and while that doesn’t mean much to some folks, it does to me.

What I am going to do is identify what I have determined is a fly in the ointment of the proposed US olive oil marketing order. The ‘fly’ is small and annoying right now but after feasting on distrust and resulting ill-will has the potential of tanking the marketing order. It makes me wonder – naivete or plan?

Prior to the presentation and meeting on Wednesday I had no opinion about the order. After reading the proposed marketing order and after considering the options and opportunities it presents for the United States olive industry I support the concept. The language is still rough and some crucial pieces are missing.

During Adam’s first presentation, I began to hear the fly. Throughout it the buzzing got louder and finally subsided when he launched into the marketing order section review. Then all of a sudden the buzzing started again and the fly began to furiously circle the room.

So Olive Crazy what does the fly represent? The fly is the niggle in the back of your brain. It is the hair standing up on your arms or the back of your neck. It is the bad omen. It is the sign of danger.

I have had and in some cases still enjoy successful careers in the military, politics, and business. Not only do I make sure I am well-educated in the areas in which I operate; can implement what I know at strategic and tactical levels; but I have great instincts and I trust them. The fly in this article is representing my instinct that some things aren’t adding up and these things, unless resolved now, will cause trouble.

Here are a few of those things:

  1. Spain is the largest exporter of olive oil in the world (not Italy – they’ve got a bottling scheme going on which makes people think they are).
  2. Spain is a charter member of the International Olive Council (IOC) which is controlled by olive oil mega corporations who have been identified as exporters of fake olive oil (seed oils masquerading as olive oil) and/or low-grade olive oil masquerading as extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Spanish investors started California Olive Ranch in the 1990s and still hold the reins.
  4. The California Olive Ranch is carrying the ball for the marketing order.
  5. The California Olive Ranch, with limited input, has created a national olive oil trade association, hired a lobbyist at the federal level, and have already commenced lobbying even though there is no record of lobbyist registration.
  6. A representative from Agromillora, Spain’s largest olive grower, was sitting in the room with us during Adam’s presentation.
  7. Adam Englehardt, who I genuinely like, claims to be politically naive, yet is making politically-sensitive decisions for an entire industry.

There are more items I could add to this list, my intention is not to sabotage the olive oil marketing order process but to alert United States olive oil stakeholders of pending problems, which can be fixed. The marketing order process is 10% business and 90% political. The 90% includes governmental, business, and personality driven politics. Strategic errors are being made which will destroy the best efforts of American olive growers and olive oil producers to enter, in any meaningful way, the global olive oil business, much less combat a cracking, but still powerful, Europe-based world olive oil trade.

If the market order process isn’t done properly the consumers of the world’s largest potential olive oil market, the east coast of the United States, will still have to buy price-altered, fake and low-quality imported olive oil, while US olive oil is relegated to the annals of agriculture as a quaint novelty.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Apr 092012

Now let’s go to the west coast of the United States for Sacramento Valley Olive Day. Below is the schedule for the Olive Day educational sessions. As you will see it is full of great information. I’m not sure if there is a registration fee, but as the Boy Scout motto says – be prepared.

The Sacramento Valley Olive Day will be held on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 1620 Solano St, Corning, CA 96021. The event is co-sponsored by Musco Family Olives, Bell Carter Olives, California Olive Ranch, West Coast Olive Products, and the Glenn County Agriculture Commissioner.

7:30 a.m. Registration
8:00 a.m. Agriculture Commissioner Update – Doug Compton, Tehama County Agriculture Commissioners Office
8:20 a.m. Review of Olive Fly Situation at the Canners 2011
8:35 a.m. Olive Pest Management District Updates
8:55 a.m. Olive Fly Control Update – Bill Krueger, UCCE Farm Advisor, Glenn County
9:25 a.m. Mechanical Harvest Update – Louise Ferguson, UCCE Olive Specialist
9:55 a.m. Coffee break
10:15 a.m. Overview of Olive Diseases Including Olive Knot – Elizabeth Fichtner, UCCE Farm Advisor, Tulare County
10:45 a.m. Olive Root Physiology and Root Functions – Joe Connell, UCCE Farm Advisor, Butte County
11:15 a.m. Research Updates: Stem Water Potential, A Tool for Irrigation Scheduling and Monitoring and Mechanical Hedging of Oil Olives – Bill Krueger
11:45 a.m. California Olive Committee Activities – Alexander Ott, Executive Director, California Olive Committee
12:15 p.m. Lunch, courtesy of Musco Family Olives, Bell Carter Olives and California Olive Ranch


View Larger Map

May the sun shine through your branches.

Mar 062012

Extra virgin olive oil is a part of my family’s daily life. During my reading for Olive Crazy I see all kinds of ways people use olive oil. Lately, the early spring has me taking over-the-counter medications to dry up my sniffles. It seems like no matter how much water I drink I can’t moisturize my mouth and throat. As a result I sleep poorly and snore worse than usual.

A couple nights ago, before sleeping, I was using my bedside bottle of California Olive Ranch Everyday California Extra Virgin Olive Oil to moisturize my face and body. I screwed on the bottle cap and thought how I would spend another miserable night all dried up and snoring. I looked at the bottle I was just getting ready to set down and Eureka – I had an idea. I unscrewed the cap to the COR evoo, took a swig, settled in, and promptly fell asleep.

The next morning when I woke I realized that I had slept through the night. I didn’t wake up once for a drink of water. Also, I didn’t have that crappy, groggy feeling you get when you’ve snored horribly all night.

I had another day of medications and tried the olive oil swig again, with the same results. I hope I’ve stumbled on to another benefit of extra virgin olive oil. I have another dry night ahead, so we’ll see.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Feb 212012

Before my son, James, went off to Army Basic Training yesterday he helped me conduct Olive Crazy’s first non-professional extra virgin olive oil taste test. Like true non-professionals we made up our own rules and had fun with it.

First we read over the lists of positive olive oil attributes and negative attributes aka defects that we gleaned from The Olive Oil Times. Then we decided to make up our own tasting terminology and to keep it simple – either it was a keeper or it was headed for the trash bin. If it was a keeper we distinguished the oils by the way we used them, and since James and I are the big olive oil users in the house we got to pick the words that best suited our needs, likes, and dislikes.

The keeper category was divided into three sub-categories based on how we cook and consume, not which we thought was better. We found some colored star stickers in a drawer and decided to use the colors to help us remember which oil was in which category.

A gold star was given for the stronger flavored oils that James and I tend to prefer. A silver star for those that were milder in flavor but had a lot of character. A blue star was given to the oils that we would use in everday cooking for ourselves and the other members of the Olive Crazy household. We put the stars on the bottles to help guide us whenever we prepared a dish. We usually have a lot of different types of extra virgin olive oils around the house so we definitely needed some sort of system.

The ‘destined for the trash bin’ category was not subdivided. If it didn’t smell or taste of fresh olives it didn’t deserve further acknowledgement.

Our extra virgin test subjects were the seven olive oils I just purchased from the California Olive Ranch: Limited Reserve, Everyday California, Arbequina, Arbosana, Miller’s Blend, Oroville Ranch, and Artois Ranch. I had some little disposable plastic cups and a big glass of water for each of us at the ready.

We warmed the oil in our hands by cradling one cup in the  palm of one hand while covering the top of the cup with the other hand. I’m not sure if we were supposed to swirl or not but we did a little bit. It seemed the natural thing to do. We then stuck our noses into the cups and took big, deep sniffs. I showed James how to do strippaggio by sucking in the air along with the olive oil as it travels from the front to the back of the tongue. I am over zealous when I am strippaggioing and always end up choking myself on the oil flying around my mouth. James got lots of laughs out of Mom coughing on the oil which went up the back of my nose combined with the coughing at the bright peppery tang of most of the oils as I swallowed. I swear all that coughing felt like exercise.

After about a half an hour and some re-tasting I am proud to say that none of the California Olive Ranch EVOOs were trash bin worthy. Each oil had a beautiful aroma of fresh olives and while each was different, each was also delicious. Here are our very non-professional findings.

Gold Star (Stronger Flavor)

  • Miller’s Blend – This was our favorite. It had a rich olive scent that smelled like broiled New York Strip steak. It was buttery, grassy, with a strong pepper finish. James and I agreed we would use this oil in all our cooking.
  • Arbequina – The initial aroma was clean and light. After the milder scent we were surprised at the robust flavors of fruit and artichokes. It had a nice peppery finish. Again we would use this one for everything.
  • Oroville Ranch – This olive oil isn’t on the California Olive Ranch website anymore. It had a light olive scent with a powerful, bold flavor and a big pepper punch. Wonderful.

Silver Star (More Complex Flavors)

  • Arbosana – A light, fresh olive smell. The flavor was very distinctive unlike any of the other oils. We tasted strong fruit, nuts, and green vegetables. There wasn’t much pepper at the end. It was a favorite.
  • Limited Reserve – A rich olive aroma. Sharp with a mixed green vegetables flavor. Had a great chewy feel. Lots of bold pepper going down the throat. Amazing.

Blue Star (Mild and Less Complex)

  • Everyday California – Buttery, slight fruit but almost sweet. Some surprising pepper. I do use this extra virgin every single day.
  • Artois Ranch – Like the Oroville Ranch it isn’t on the website any longer. This was by far the mildest of all the oils. Light aroma, less viscosity, very little pepper. An excellent all around olive oil and great for evoo beginners.

As you may have guessed the color of the stars doesn’t have anything to do with how good the olive oil is but with flavor categories. I just happened to have an abundance of stars in these three colors.

Taste testing these California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oils was a fun and interesting activity for a Mom and her now soldier son. Hooah!!

May the sun shine through your branches.