Dec 052014

2014 does not equal 2015This summer I was shopping for olive oil. I prefer buying US-grown extra virgin olive oil and ran out of all the latest US-harvested oils from 2013, and the 2014 US oils hadn’t been harvested yet. As is my habit I looked at the harvest dates on each bottle and noticed that one of the big California olive oil producers had a 2014 harvest date on all their labels.

I was surprised since I knew that this particular producer had not harvested in early 2014. I guessed that they had purchased some foreign olive oil that matched the taste profile of their oil and were reflecting the harvest date of the newer oil, or that it was just a mistake. It never occurred to me that something was wrong.

Earlier this year I read the new California Food and Agricultural Code section that created the state Olive Oil Commission. The Commission is comprised of olive oil producers and handlers who produce 5,000 gallons or more of olive oil in a period that extends from July 1st of a year through June 30th of the next year. Today I just reread that law before diving in to the subsequent rules and regulations promulgated under the auspices of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. These rules and regs were enacted on September 26 of this year.

Well! If what I am about to print isn’t just some sloppy legal drafting then it is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers. Check it out.

The following is from the labeling section of the new rules and regulations for olive oil grade and labeling standards:

11.3.6 Year of Harvest. If reference is made to a harvest date, then 100% of the olives used to make the oil must have been harvested during that time period. Because the harvest typically runs from October through January, the dating refers to it by the calendar year; for example the 2014-2015 harvest season is deemed to be the 2015 harvest. When oils from multiple years are combined and the year of harvest is indicated the label must indicate each of the harvest years contained therein. If the month and year of harvest are indicated then 100% of the oil must be from that period. If the season and year are indicted then 100% of the oil must be from that period.

What this says ladies and gentlemen is that California producers of 5,000+ gallons of olive oil annually can claim that their entire harvest is from the next year even if they complete their harvest prior to the end of the year, as long as it’s within the season. What it also alludes to is that producers of less than 5,000 gallons of olive oil a year are out of luck since they are not actually subject to this law.

Considering the updated harvest labeling that showed up on the bottles of olive oil I mentioned above, this is not a mistake. It is deliberate, by one, some, or all. Therefore it is designed to hoodwink consumers. The next time I hear or read one of those 5,000+ California producers or handlers complain about the fraudulent practices of the Europeans and the US olive oil importers I won’t be very sympathetic.

I doubt the author of the original law, Senator Wolk, had this regulated result  in mind. Grab a pen, some redrafting is in order.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Jun 252014
Drought-stricken California

Drought-stricken California

On the east coast of the United States we take California’s massive contribution to our tables for granted. Lately is seems like there is an article every day about the increase in food prices due to the drought conditions in California and other western food production states. Usually the articles focus on celery and beef even though there are many other, and more popular, food items effected by the climatic conditions out west.

Here is a video and article about how the drought is effecting olives in Central California. Meet Art Kishiyama. He is a grower in Paso Robles, owning Olio Nuevo, and the President of the Central Coast Olive Growers. Even though I live and grow olives in Georgia, I am a member of the CCOG. They are a great group of folks who are interested in growing olives and putting out excellent olive oil.

From KSBY television in San Luis Obispo, California “Exceptional drought making no exceptions for drought-resistant olives.”

May the sun shine through your branches.

Nov 012012

Beginning this Saturday, November 3rd and extending throughout the month of November the Pelican Hill Resort will be featuring Italy-themed festivities. It’s all in celebration of the olive harvest.

Pelican Hill Resort is located just south of Newport Beach which is south of Los Angeles.

Pelican Hill expands harvest festival | resort, olive, lama – The Orange County Register.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Aug 212012

I originally began writing this article while sitting in the Sacramento airport after an enlightening week in California. I arrived at the airport early, dropped off my rental car, checked my bag, went through security, found my gate, and opened my laptop. After half an hour of typing, a cell phone rang. Its owner yelled “Halloooo” into it. For what seemed like an eternity the speaker entertained and annoyed two gates worth of travelers with her loudly pronounced opinions and prognostications about a north Georgia political race.

Normally, I would be interested, since it was politics and I might be able to learn some details I could share with others. But no, her banter was just gossip, not worthy of intelligence gathering.

I turned to look at the woman who did not seem to have confidence that her cell phone could relay her conversation along its bandwidth. I was stricken. She looked just like me and was even dressed similarly to me. I turned back around in my seat and stared at the blank wall ahead. As I stared pride, ego, and vanity made a visit. What if people think I am her, I thought. Reacting to some of the seven deadly sins taking charge of my brain, I turned in my chair again.

“Excuse me. Excuse me.” I said, arm extended and fingers fluttering. “You are talking way too loudly.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said my twin southern sister.

“Thank you,” I said repositioning myself in my chair.

The ladies next to me thanked me and returned to their books with sighs of relief. Me, I felt kind of crappy. I thought about my motivations. Even though what I did appeared to be justified, I knew I should have handled the situation better. The bad manners of another did not justify mine. I resolved to print out a copy of the seven deadly sins and tape it up where I can reflect on these easy-to-employ misbehaviors.

In preparation for boarding, I closed my laptop and popped an Advil PM. Once in the plane, I closed my eyes and dreamed of heat and olive trees and new acquaintances. I woke up in Atlanta snuggled up to the arm of the man who sat next to me. I apologized and he forgave me, promising not to tell his wife.

May the sun shine through your branches.