Growers Prepare for Harvest in Northern Frontier of U.S. Olive Oil Production

Hobby growers and professional producers are optimistic about the upcoming harvest in Oregon.

Milling olives at Durant Olive Mill in 2021. (Photo: Kelsey Chance, Good Chance Creative)
By Thomas Sechehaye
Aug. 7, 2023 13:58 UTC
Milling olives at Durant Olive Mill in 2021. (Photo: Kelsey Chance, Good Chance Creative)

Olive grow­ing in Oregon is often called the new fron­tier. Frontier farm­ing is typ­i­cally known for both pit­falls and promises.

Oregon trees are far­ing well this sum­mer,” Heather Stoven, from Oregon State University’s agri­cul­tural exten­sion ser­vice, told Olive Oil Times. Established olives in Oregon can tol­er­ate the heat and dry sum­mer con­di­tions with­out pro­tec­tive mea­sures. Young trees, how­ever, do need sup­ple­men­tal water dur­ing the sum­mer.”

Oregon’s har­vest is look­ing promis­ing. At this point in the sea­son, the trees have bloomed, and fruit is on its way. Olive grow­ers should con­tinue to mon­i­tor plant health and nutri­tion.- Heather Stoven, Oregon State University ag exten­sion ser­vice

Interest in grow­ing olives in Oregon has been strong due to the warmer and drier sum­mers we have been expe­ri­enc­ing – espe­cially for those who have water avail­abil­ity issues,” she added. The crop is well suited for increased heat and drought.”

Stoven explained that cold spells in win­ter are the most sig­nif­i­cant risk to grow­ing olives in Oregon. Even with hot, dry sum­mers, if the trees expe­ri­ence exten­sive dam­age dur­ing the pre­vi­ous win­ter, they will not pro­duce well.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

Interested pro­duc­ers must eval­u­ate areas to find a favor­able site and micro­cli­mate to grow olives in Oregon.

My par­ents started the vine­yard oper­a­tion and really are entre­pre­neurs,” Paul Durant, co-owner and founder of Durant Olive Mill in Dayton, told Oregon Public Broadcasting. We became pas­sion­ate about olive trees and planted a few thou­sand trees around 2004/05.”

Since then, we felt like we were hav­ing a lot of suc­cess and went even big­ger and built a mill,” Durant said.

After a series of tough set­backs and hard win­ter con­di­tions plus a big freeze in 2013, we were forced to rethink and re-look at what are the good vari­eties for Oregon,” he added.

The Durant Olive Mill is state-of-the-art. The olive har­vest and milling occur each autumn with a blend of olives from Durant’s Oregon groves and care­fully-sourced olives from select grow­ers in Northern California.

According to Stoven, the exact num­ber of grow­ers in Oregon is approx­i­mately less than 50, most of whom grow olives for oil pro­duc­tion. Most of the state’s olive grow­ers are located in the Willamette Valley, with a few in Southern Oregon.

However, inter­est is high in Oregon State University’s Olea project, which is study­ing which olive trees are best suited to thrive in Oregon’s cli­mate con­di­tions. The Olea project was estab­lished to research and eval­u­ate best prac­tices for table and oil-pro­duc­ing olives in Oregon.

Challenges for olive farm­ers in Oregon are not lim­ited to weather and cli­mate change. Stoven noted that the emer­ald ash borer is a pest that has been recently dis­cov­ered in Oregon. This pest has the abil­ity to dam­age olive trees. However, at this time, we are unsure exactly how severely olives will be affected,” she said.

In June 2022, state offi­cials in Oregon con­firmed the dis­cov­ery of an emer­ald ash borer, an exotic bee­tle that infests ash trees, in Forest Grove, just west of Portland. This marked the first con­fir­ma­tion of the inva­sive pest on the United States West Coast.

Oregon pro­vides an online hot­line to enable res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to report a poten­tial inva­sive species. The pub­lic can use this form to help iden­tify this poten­tially dan­ger­ous pest to inva­sive species experts.

According to Entomology Today, the olive tree is the sec­ond non-ash species found to be vul­ner­a­ble to emer­ald ash borer. In a detailed study from Wright State University, the emer­ald ash borer can develop from lar­vae to adult­hood on a species of olive trees.

If emer­ald ash borer can detect and uti­lize olive trees in the field, it would take it from being pri­mar­ily a for­est and land­scape pest to a poten­tial crop tree pest,” Don Cipollini, a pro­fes­sor of plant phys­i­ol­ogy and chem­i­cal ecol­ogy at Wright State and lead author of the study, told Entomology Today.


Hobby grow­ers and pro­fes­sional pro­duc­ers are opti­mistic about the upcom­ing har­vest. Oregon’s har­vest is look­ing promis­ing,” Stoven said. At this point in the sea­son, the trees have bloomed, and fruit is on its way. Olive grow­ers should con­tinue to mon­i­tor plant health and nutri­tion.”

Olive tree irri­ga­tion, fer­til­iza­tion and mon­i­tor­ing remains a key issue. In addi­tion, pro­duc­ers need to develop a plan for attract­ing farm work­ers, as olive har­vest­ing in Oregon depends on proper hand-pick­ing.

Machine har­vest­ing in Oregon, given the wet con­di­tions that we’re pick­ing in, is prob­a­bly never going to hap­pen, cer­tainly in my life­time,” Durant said.

Stoven agreed: Labor for har­vest can be an issue; there­fore, devel­op­ing a har­vest plan is an impor­tant step before the end of the sea­son.”

Olives are a small niche crop in the state, pro­duc­ing a high-qual­ity oil which is sought by those look­ing for locally pro­duced spe­cialty foods,” Stoven said. We will not com­pete with California, for exam­ple, due to our cli­mate lim­i­ta­tions.”

Most of the olives in Oregon are grown in the Willamette Valley. This val­ley is well-known for its tem­per­ate cli­mate, mak­ing it a prime wine-pro­duc­ing region.

According to Oregon Wine, the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s old­est wine region, with two-thirds of the state’s winer­ies and vine­yards. It is home to more than 700 winer­ies, and its Pinot Noir is leg­endary. The val­ley is about 240 kilo­me­ters long, framed by the Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east.

Cool win­ter tem­per­a­tures in Oregon limit olives to areas west of the Cascade Mountains,” Stoven said. Areas of south­ern and east­ern Oregon can have hot­ter sum­mers than the Willamette Valley (where most of the olives are grown).”

However, most of these areas are colder in the win­ter and there­fore not able to grow olives,” she added. There are a few areas of south­ern Oregon where olives are grown, but not all areas are suit­able.”

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