How to Make Award-Winning Olive Oil in a Tractor-Trailer

Samir Bayraktar, the founder of Olive Truck, has earned ten NYIOOC awards for extra virgin olive oils produced in his mobile mill.

Samir Bayraktar
By Daniel Dawson
Apr. 12, 2023 18:47 UTC
Samir Bayraktar

Samir Bayraktar has pro­duced extra vir­gin olive oil in the back of a trac­tor-trailer truck for nearly a decade.

The mechan­i­cal engi­neer first devel­oped the idea while work­ing as the man­ag­ing direc­tor of Turkish olive oil pro­ducer Nar Gourmet.

We had a project to research and find minor local cul­ti­vars around Anatolia,” Bayraktar told Olive Oil Times. In the first year, we started mak­ing olive oil out of these cul­ti­vars, but not all the olive oils were as good as we wanted them to be.”

See Also:Producer Profiles

The sec­ond year, we decided to make this mobile mill to pro­duce olive oils under the same con­di­tion in each region,” he added.

Bayraktar’s deci­sion to build the mobile mill paid off and Nar Gourmet earned a Gold Award at the 2014 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition with olive oil pro­duced from its portable mill.

By the begin­ning of 2018, Bayraktar moved back to the United States, where he had received his Master’s degree more than a decade before. 2019 was my first pro­duc­tion year in California,” he said.

Appropriately dubbed the Olive Truck, Bayraktar imme­di­ately returned to win­ning ways at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity con­test. Since 2020, he has won 10 NYIOOC awards, includ­ing one Gold and two Silver Awards this year.


Bayraktar has spent nearly 10 years producing olive oil in a tarctor-trailer truck.

Bayraktar trans­forms olives from two con­tracted farms in Fairfield and Lower Lake, California, west of Sacramento. He also advises neigh­bor­ing olive farm­ers and mills some of their olives with the mobile mill.

One of the perks of work­ing with his neigh­bors is the abil­ity to exper­i­ment. While Bayraktar mainly har­vests Coratina, Leccino and Frantoio olives with his con­tracted farm­ers, he is plant­ing Favalosa and Itrana olives. In five years, we will be mak­ing good olive oil out of these new plan­ta­tions,” he said.

Bayraktar attrib­uted his con­sis­tent suc­cess in the NYIOOC to his focus on qual­ity over quan­tity and the flex­i­bil­ity pro­vided by the mobile mill.

The busiest period for me is prob­a­bly the three weeks to one month before the sea­son because it’s sched­ul­ing time,” he said.

Bayraktar uses data from pre­vi­ous har­vests and analy­sis of the cur­rent crop of olives to decide the pre­cise moment to har­vest and mill in each grove.

I col­lect the sam­ples two or three weeks before what I esti­mate to be the best har­vest win­dow,” he said. Then I get the results from the lab.”


Every step of the milling process takes place in the back of the truck – from washing to storage.

Based on the olives’ oil accu­mu­la­tion and mois­ture con­tent, Bayraktar deter­mines the best moment to stop irri­ga­tion, sched­ules the days to har­vest each grove, and con­tracts a har­vest crew.

Between his two con­tracted groves and those of his neigh­bors and friends, Bayraktar spends between three and four weeks har­vest­ing and trans­form­ing olives right in the grove.

The day before the har­vest begins, Bayraktar dri­ves his mobile mill to the grove. All the equip­ment is installed in the con­tainer on the trailer,” he said.

The basic setup is you bring the equip­ment in the truck and hook it up to the elec­tric­ity and water source,” Bayraktar added. We also fil­ter the water before we fill the tank to wash the olives and start.”


In some groves, Bayraktar hooks up the truck to local electricity. In others, he powers the truck with a generator.

The morn­ing of the har­vest, Bayraktar arrives in time to pick at 6:30 a.m. If he is har­vest­ing some­where the truck can­not con­nect to elec­tric­ity, Bayraktar pow­ers it with a gen­er­a­tor.

After the first hour and a half of har­vest­ing – done by hand or with shak­ers – there are enough olives to start milling con­tin­u­ously for the rest of the day. Bayraktar mills between five and 7.5 tons of olives each day.


When they fin­ish har­vest­ing by about 4 or 5 p.m., we con­tinue crush­ing to get oil from the last batch for another hour to an hour and a half,” he said. Then we clean the equip­ment to ensure it is refreshed and ready for the next morn­ing.”

From branch to stor­age, Bayraktar said he trans­forms olives into olive oil within 45 min­utes, help­ing him achieve his pri­mary goal – pre­serv­ing the high­est amount of polyphe­nols in the extra vir­gin olive oils.


Since 2020, Bayraktar has won 10 NYIOOC awards, demonstrating the effectiveness of his unorthodox method.

With his sights set on high polyphe­nol counts, which con­tribute to the organolep­tic and health qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil, Bayraktar prefers an early har­vest.

Usually, this means har­vest­ing in the sec­ond or third week of October. However, Bayraktar believes cli­mate change is push­ing up the har­vest in California. This year, we har­vested 10 days ear­lier,” he said.

Bayraktar added rain dur­ing the har­vest days in the past two years had com­pli­cated things. I pre­fer a dry win­dow of weather that’s a lit­tle bit cooler from mid-October to mid-November,” he said. This is my wish, but it’s not hap­pen­ing.”

Like many of his fel­low California grow­ers, he said the 2022/23 crop year was not great. What I expe­ri­enced in California was not a good year,” Bayraktar con­firmed.

While his groves were largely unaf­fected by the extreme weather events and drought that dam­aged groves in other parts of the state, he said some of his neigh­bors lost olives to frost.

They did­n’t even har­vest because it was not going to be fea­si­ble for them to har­vest and pay for the labor,” Bayraktar said. Labor is super expen­sive in California, and find­ing labor is also chal­leng­ing.”

The com­bi­na­tion of a tight labor mar­ket in the United States – where there are more job open­ings than peo­ple look­ing for work – and many crops in California need­ing to be har­vested simul­ta­ne­ously has made this year espe­cially dif­fi­cult for pro­duc­ers to find work­ers.

However, Bayraktar is opti­mistic about the future. He sees grow­ing inter­est in his prod­ucts as they con­tinue to win awards and hopes this indi­cates a pos­i­tive tra­jec­tory for high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion in California.

Bayraktar also thinks recent rain and snow across much of the state, replen­ish­ing the snow­pack and refill­ing aquifers, will help olive grow­ers in the com­ing crop year.

If we con­tinue hav­ing a lit­tle bit more rain in late April, that will help,” he said. I’m not expect­ing any­thing dur­ing sum­mer.”

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