2019 was a remarkable year for Green Valley Olive as it marks our first major harvest at our Hidden Hills Estate olive groves located in El Dorado county near Diamond Springs. We planted our first blocks in 2008, with follow-on blocks planted in 2011. 2019 marked our first full commercial harvest for all blocks, and what a harvest it was.
Situated at 1,600 feet (a bit shy of 500 meters) elevation in the Sierra Nevada foothills, our micro-climate puts us above the central valley winter tule fog and highest summer heat, but below the snow line. Snow falls, but does not linger. Being above the central valley fog however does bring other dangers in winter, particularly during extended periods of clear skies where we face occasional danger of extended temperatures below 32˚F (0˚C). (In 2009 and again in 2010, we suffered extended freezes that knocked all the branches off our Maurino trees, requiring us to retrain from the strongest new growth the root systems would gave us in spring.) For the past few years we’ve been fortunate to have cold winters that remind the trees they will not live forever, and hence must grow and bear fruit, but not so cold as to damage the trees.
Initial fruit-set this year was the heaviest we had seen, and was our first indication we would be busy at harvest time this year. Olives are alternate bearing, meaning one year they put more energy into fruit production and in the alternate year they put more energy into producing the wood they will put flowers, and fruit, on the following year. 2018 was devastating in that we had no harvest. The trees made up for it this year.
We started harvest on November 11, 2019 with a harvest plan for two 18-person days. (The hilly nature of our orchards requires that we harvest by hand). By the end of day one we knew that plan was out the window, when we only got through Block 1A and a bit of Block 1B.
Our millers at Bozzano Olive Ranch were terrific with us and fit us in over several days. Two days ended up stretching to four days, and our original forecast 2 ton harvest landed at 5.48 tons which, after milling, yielded 239 gallons or close to 44 gallons per ton.
2020 is looking to be very different. Last year was a heavy harvest so the trees will, regardless, bear much more lightly this year. We’ve also had no cold weather this winter – with some days in February reaching close to 80˚F (27˚C) – further incentive for the trees to take it easy this year. Let’s see what happens.