It’s about as far from the Mediterranean as you can get, but experiments in producing quality olive oil from cooler weather olive tree varieties are showing promise in western Oregon, USA, where David and Carmen Lawrence have evaluated dozens of cultivars over the past decade.
Owners of Oregon Olive Trees in Amity, Oregon, the Lawrences have successfully produced multiple runs of 100 percent Oregon-grown and Oregon-milled extra virgin olive oil. Their experiments with EVOO production began in 2008.
In early 2015, the Lawrences chose Agbiolab in Durham, California, to test their single varietal Frantoio oil which was picked on December 23, 2014.
They tested peroxide value, free fatty acid content, absorbency in ultraviolet and total polyphenols, resulting in the Agbiolab spokesperson stating that it was a “very good oil, indeed.” The Lawrences have recently posted the lab’s correspondence and test results.
Currently, they have more than 70 olive tree cultivars growing across seven acres. In 2014 and 2015, they made 14 distinct mill runs of olive oil from several promising cultivars. They are evaluating the ability to produce high-quality oil only from cool-weather grown olives without sourcing fruit from warmer weather regions. The farm and its small centrifugal mill is not currently a licensed production facility.
Oregon Olive Trees is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a. The first frost can happen between October 11 – 20 in this location, with the last one between May 1 – 10. Summer temperatures rarely reach above 86°F with an average summer high of 82°F.
David Lawrence describes his farm’s soil as, “Jory, silty, clay loam of varying thicknesses.” Once the decision to grow olives was made, he had his soil tested and eventually chose to add four tons of lime per acre.
Among the outdoor, in-ground trees, they tend nursery stock of varieties that have shown promise in the cool, relatively moist summers typical of the Pacific Northwest in certain areas of western Oregon, western Washington State, and up into western Canada and the Lawrences have sold their nursery stock to locations across the Pacific Northwest.