` Floridians Look to a Future with Local Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Floridians Look to a Future with Local Olive Oil

Nov. 16, 2015
Wendy Logan

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In part­ner­ship with agri­cul­tural pro­fes­sors and researchers from the University of Florida, a small but ambi­tious group of grow­ers from Florida have thrown their hat into the olive-farm­ing and olive oil-pro­duc­ing ring. As the cit­rus indus­try strug­gles, the state is con­sid­er­ing the poten­tial of the fruit as an alter­nate, lucra­tive crop.

While a Tampa Bay Times food critic, Laura Reiley, dipped a hunk of bread into a sam­ple of some Florida-grown and processed extra vir­gin oil and was impressed by its qual­ity, the Sunshine State’s got a long way to go — approx­i­mately seven years — before it’s deter­mined whether the soil and cli­mate can sus­tain the some­what finicky though drought-resis­tant olives to the extent that they can become a state com­mod­ity.

Factors like high humid­ity, high tem­per­a­tures, sandy soil, and heavy rains have long been thought to dis­qual­ify the region for olive tree farm­ing.

While indi­vid­ual grow­ers try their hands at olive farm­ing through­out the state, it becomes clear just how big of a chal­lenge it is to cul­ti­vate the amount of fruit in vol­umes that would force an impres­sion in com­merce and trade.

From just over 11,000 trees that were planted three years ago on a 25-acre plot, a grower cited in Reiley’s arti­cle pressed only 60 gal­lons of oil, enough to fill a liv­ing room fish tank.”

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As a barom­e­ter, California, the num­ber one pro­ducer of the bulk of the olive crop and olive oil in the U.S. is expected to yield some­where between three and four mil­lion gal­lons by harvest’s end this month.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has planted groves through­out the state and aims to address some of the larger ques­tions that loom for olive grow­ers within the var­i­ous micro­cli­mates down south.

Environment, cul­ti­var selec­tion, and growth and har­vest con­cerns are all being exam­ined as part of the school’s research, and the state remains hope­ful that fur­ther edu­ca­tion and stud­ies will yield the promise of a new crop down the line.

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