The Challenges and Triumphs of Taking Over an Olive Farm in California

Since purchasing Pitchouline and rebranding as Pura Grove, Tim Bui has continued the Southern California producer's legacy of quality.

Pura Grove Olive Farm
By Daniel Dawson
Apr. 21, 2023 11:38 UTC
Pura Grove Olive Farm

The name has changed, but the mis­sion for the award-win­ning pro­duc­ers behind Southern California’s Pura Grove remains the same: craft­ing high-qual­ity organic extra vir­gin olive oil.

The brand, for­merly known as Pitchouline, earned a Silver Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for its medium-inten­sity organic blend.

Fabien [Tremoulet, the for­mer owner] always entered the com­pe­ti­tion, so I entered to con­tinue his tra­di­tion,” Tim Bui told Olive Oil Times.

Bui, who also runs a per­sonal care and sup­ple­ment busi­ness, bought the farm from the Tremoulets in 2021.

See Also:Producer Profiles

I saw the oppor­tu­nity to buy 50 hectares of land that Fabien was already grow­ing olives and pro­duc­ing oil on, and it was a great oppor­tu­nity to get into the olive busi­ness,” he said. I checked out the land and fell in love with it even though I did­n’t know much about agri­cul­ture.”

Bui is now work­ing to incor­po­rate Pura Grove into his larger com­pany, Pura d’Or, which sells organic sup­ple­ments and per­sonal care prod­ucts for skin and hair.


Bui in Venice

A lot of our per­sonal care prod­ucts use oils. Some of the oils that we’ve been using are argan oil, cas­tor oil, rose seed oil, sweet almond oil, apri­cot oil and olive oil,” he said.

While olive oil has been used for hair, beauty and skin­care pur­poses for mil­len­nia, Bui said a con­sis­tent prob­lem he faced at Pura d’Or was know­ing the prove­nance and milling meth­ods of the bulk olive oil he imported from Europe.

Media reports sug­gest­ing a sig­nif­i­cant share of imported extra vir­gin olive oils to the United States were mis­la­beled fur­ther fueled Bui’s sus­pi­cion and led him to get into the busi­ness him­self.

This way, we have more ver­ti­cal inte­gra­tion at Pura d’Or,” he said. I want high-qual­ity olive oil. The only way to ensure that is to have full con­trol of the farm.”

Bui now uses roughly 10 per­cent of his pro­duc­tion in his skin and hair care prod­ucts, while he bot­tles and sells the remain­ing 90 per­cent under the Pura Grove brand.

He attrib­uted this ini­tial suc­cess at the NYIOOC, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity con­test, to the help pro­vided by Tremoulet dur­ing the tran­si­tion.


Bui doubled the size of the workforce, hiring four new workers when he bought the farm in 2021.

However, Bui also hired addi­tional farm work­ers and a con­sul­tant to help him learn more about olive farm­ing and oil pro­duc­tion. Still, he said olive farm­ing is not easy and con­tin­ues to face a steep learn­ing curve.

We’re not mak­ing any money yet from the farm,” he con­firmed. Last year (2021/22), we did­n’t get any har­vest at all.”

Farming, in gen­eral, is a lot of hard work,” Bui added. It’s a lot of man­ual labor that you have to put into the process just get one bot­tle of oil.”

He believes olive farm­ing in California is espe­cially dif­fi­cult due to the higher pro­duc­tion costs than those faced in Europe, espe­cially Spain.

I think olive oil pro­duc­tion, in gen­eral, is very chal­leng­ing in all of California,” he said. We’re fac­ing stiff com­pe­ti­tion from over­seas.”


Pura Grove currently has 9,000 trees of 10 different varieties.

Bui sells Pura Grove for $29 (€26) per bot­tle, which he said can­not com­pete with imported extra vir­gin olive oil that sells for as low as $5 (€4.5) in the super­mar­ket.

He believes con­sumer edu­ca­tion is the best way to pro­mote California’s extra vir­gin olive oil, but gov­ern­ment pol­icy should also be enacted to put U.S. pro­duc­ers on a level play­ing field.


If I were just to stop grow­ing, cut all my olive trees down and import olive oil from Europe, I would make a profit,” he said. It’s that much cheaper to buy it than to grow olives, pro­duce olive oil and sell it.”

However, after a rocky first few years – albeit one that ended with a Silver Award – things are com­ing together, and Bui’s prospects for the 2024 har­vest are look­ing up.

When he first bought the farm, which sits amid the De Luz hills between San Diego and Los Angeles, there were 9,000 olive trees of 10 dif­fer­ent vari­eties, many of which had not entered full matu­rity yet.

Bui planted 1,000 more olive trees and some avo­cado trees since 2021. He expects pro­duc­tion to increase in the next half-decade as many olive trees mature and bear more fruit. He also plans to sell avo­cado oil.


Bui has planted 1,000 more trees to increase production.

Despite his efforts to bol­ster pro­duc­tion and fur­ther diver­sify, Bui said he still faces many other chal­lenges in pro­duc­ing organic extra vir­gin olive oil in California.

The most imme­di­ate was hav­ing the oils re-cer­ti­fied by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Tremoulet’s Pitchouline extra vir­gin olive oil oils had the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, but Bui said he needed to re-cer­tify once the farm changed hands. I won’t say it was dif­fi­cult, but there are a lot of require­ments, and we had to make a lot of changes,” he said.

Bui also seeks to cer­tify his newly-planted groves for the first time, a three-year process. It is def­i­nitely worth­while just for health rea­sons,” he said.

Organic is the com­pany phi­los­o­phy and my per­sonal phi­los­o­phy,” he added. I’ve always been against pes­ti­cides and fungi­cides. They stay in the soil for a long time.”

Bui also senses the global trend of grow­ing demand for organic olive oil. According to some research, the organic olive oil mar­ket is expected to grow to $2.2 bil­lion by 2031, up from $933 mil­lion in 2021.

I think the con­sumer is shift­ing toward organic olive oil every day,” he said.

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