The founder of the UC Davis Olive Center received the California Olive Oil Council's Pioneer Award for his "lasting impact on the state's olive oil industry."
Ahead of his imminent retirement at the end of June, Dan Flynn, the executive director of the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, has received the 2020 Pioneer Award from the California Olive Oil Council (COOC).
Dan Flynn started the organization 13 years ago with just $50,000 from university and industry supporters and grew it into a world-renowned center for olive research and education.
“The COOC Pioneer Award has gone to individuals who have had a lasting impact on the California olive oil industry,” Patricia King, the COOC’s executive director, told Olive Oil Times. “The 2020 recipient has made a lasting impact.”
“Dan Flynn started the (Olive Center) 13 years ago with just $50,000 from university and industry supporters and grew it into a world-renowned center for olive research and education,” she added.
Flynn told Olive Oil Times that he was grateful for both the award, which is usually only given to COOC members, and for the close collaboration of the COOC with the Olive Center throughout its 13-year history.See Also: California Olive Oil Updates
“When I first was planning the Olive Center in 2007, they were among the first people I reached out to and the president of the board at the time, Alan Green, was really helpful for the planning stage,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of gratitude for the COOC and it was a nice gesture for them to provide this award.”
In the COOC’s announcement of the award, growers and producers shared their gratitude for Flynn’s work.
“In partnership with the industry, UC Davis has helped millions of consumers understand the quality of supermarket olive oil, provided the analytical foundation for California’s strict olive oil standards and educated thousands to become better olive oil growers, processors and tasters,” said Brady Whitlow, the president of Corto Olive, who presented Flynn with the award.
Many growers commended Flynn for his involvement with and backing the center’s landmark 2010 olive oil quality study, which found that many of the olive oils sold in California supermarkets did not meet the standards specified on their labels.
“Dan’s decision to undertake and publish the study put California extra virgin olive oil on the map, the importers on the defensive and cemented his legacy,” Bruce Golina, the president of Santa Cruz Olive Tree Nursery, said.
“In the ensuing furor, Dan stood by the study, weathered the storm, and shepherded the raising of the bar for extra virgin olive oil not only here but also in Europe,” Karen Bond, the president of Bondolio, added. “Today, the quality of extra virgin olive oil in California is greater than it was in 2008 and continues to improve.”
Flynn acknowledged the importance of the study, but said his crowning achievement at the Olive Center was building a comprehensive network of academics and industry people that is not reliant on one single figure and would continue to operate successfully regardless of who comes and leaves.
“We definitely got a lot of attention for that study, but what I feel are the highlights of my time with the Olive Center is, number one, that we built a network of people in the university, not only faculty and students but connected that group of people with the folks in the industry – growers, processors, importers and retailers,” he said. “That network is the secret of the Olive Center’s success.”
Flynn added that he was also proud of helping establish California’s olive oil standards, which he said are among the strictest government standards in the world.
“I also think we educated a lot of people along the way through our courses with milling and olive oil sensory evaluation and olive growing,” he said. “Our goal was to help people get better quality and higher yields and make their operation more profitable so that they could continue to do that.”
After facilitating the transition of Javier Fernandez-Salvador as the new executive director of the Olive Center, Flynn said that we would remain an informal advisor to the center. Still, he plans to spend more time with his family and undertake new projects.
“It’s been 13 years and it felt like the right time to pass the baton to somebody else,” he said. “I’m looking at various things and am excited about being able to open my horizons a bit to work in other areas.”