` Olive Oil Producers Go Mobile in California

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Olive Oil Producers Go Mobile in California

Jun. 20, 2011
By Lori Zanteson

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Ram­bling along Cal­i­for­nia roads and high­ways to the rhythm of the olive har­vest, North America’s only two mobile mills work their way up the coast, mak­ing many stops along the way. Just a cou­ple har­vests into this very new ven­ture, the demand for mobile milling is almost more than these inno­v­a­tive ser­vices can han­dle. But the oper­a­tors of Olive 2 Bot­tle (O2B) and Mill on Wheels (MOW) wouldn’t have it any other way and can’t wait to do it all again.

Mobile mills could not have come at a bet­ter time for this boom­ing indus­try. Of all the fac­tors that con­tribute to the mak­ing of great extra vir­gin olive oil, from olive vari­ety, to ter­roir, to irri­ga­tion, there’s no deny­ing the impor­tance of get­ting olives from the tree to the mill as quickly as pos­si­ble.

It’s pretty amaz­ing the qual­ity you can get even from mediocre olives by milling them quickly,” said Thom Curry, gen­eral man­ager of Temec­ula Olive Oil Com­pany, owner of O2B. The real­ity for many grow­ers and most small grow­ers, who don’t have a mill on their prop­erty, or are not close to one, is that time is not always on their side. Load­ing and haul­ing tons of olives in what may be rented bins, trucks, and trail­ers to the near­est mill, is an often expen­sive and timely endeavor.

The first mobile mill, O2B, accord­ing to Curry, was the brain­child of two guys: One quite mechan­i­cal with an inter­est in mak­ing the best olive oil, and the other a man­ager of an equip­ment com­pany. It was more of a show­piece than a busi­ness,” said Curry, built as a mar­ket­ing tool to show what could be done. Curry first saw the mill at U.C. Davis in 2009 and was so taken with the idea that he was first in line to pur­chase it in Sep­tem­ber 2010, just in time for its sec­ond har­vest.

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Curry quickly got a crew together and jumped into har­vest with a healthy base of return O2B cus­tomers and no short­age of new ones. It was a crazy year!” he said, It was a learn­ing process.” O2B milled between 25 and 30 dif­fer­ent places last year and plans on 35 or 40 this year. O2B can mill ¾ of a ton of olives per hour, but Curry keeps it at ½ a ton for bet­ter qual­ity.

While O2B was deep into its first har­vest, Yves and Clotilde Julien of Olea Farms in Tem­ple­ton were plan­ning their own mobile mill, an idea that sur­faced from their need to mill a lot of trees they planted in San Luis Obispo. Nearby Fox­dale Mill is won­der­ful,” accord­ing to Clotilde Julien, but it’s small so it can’t pro­duce huge quan­ti­ties at a time.” They designed Mill On Wheels to take care of that. Mar­keted as the largest mobile mill in the world, MOW can process two tons of olives per hour. Their goal for their first har­vest was to process 100 tons of olives. They exceeded 250. We could dou­ble” that num­ber this year, said Julien, if the weather per­mits.” The huge demand prompted talk of adding one more malaxer in a year or two to increase pro­duc­tion to 3 – 5 tons per hour.

The mobile mills have been con­tacted by poten­tial clients in other states and coun­tries as well. MOW has a con­tract with a cus­tomer in Geor­gia whose har­vest should fall in the first few weeks of Sep­tem­ber. The plan is to ship the 36-foot trailer which houses the mill, and be back in time for California’s har­vests. We’ll start in San Diego and move up through Mal­ibu, the Cen­tral Coast and Carmel. That’s our pro­jec­tion,” said Julien. Curry has had inter­est from grow­ers in Argentina and Aus­tralia.

Expe­ri­enced millers, the pri­or­ity of the peo­ple behind O2B and MOW is to pro­duce the high­est qual­ity olive oil. Our stan­dards are extremely high,” said Julien, It kills us some­times, but we don’t care. The olive oil has to be per­fect.” Olea Farm and Temec­ula Olive Oil Com­pany have won many awards for their oils and those they’ve processed for have won best of shows and gold medals. That’s our rep­u­ta­tion,” explained Julien, We’re going to process as good for every­body as we do for our­selves.”

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