`One California Olive Farmer Calls it Quits - Olive Oil Times

One California Olive Farmer Calls it Quits

Nov. 14, 2014
Don Curlee

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Randy Childress

Randy Childress is look­ing for a job today, all because the third gen­er­a­tion of the California fam­ily that owned the pio­neer olive prop­erty he man­aged decided to call it quits.

He man­aged a 184-acre farm near Woodlake, with more 70 of those acres in olive trees more than 100 years old. Traditionally they pro­duced four to seven tons per acre, sent for cur­ing and can­ning. This year, because of unfa­vor­able weather and drought the trees pro­duced only about four and a half tons per acre.

Getting the olives har­vested last month was one of Childress’s final stress­ful assign­ments. He offered one crew $9 per hour plus $1 per bucket bonus, and was refused. After a a lengthy search he found a crew will­ing to accept the $9 rate. At that there were few smiles as the pick­ers spent most of their time climb­ing or mov­ing lad­ders, rather than fill­ing their pick­ing buck­ets. The crop was sparse.

Of course Randy and the har­vest­ing crew are not the only ones dis­ap­pointed. The own­ers were reas­sured that they had made the right deci­sion to sell the prop­erty, one of their father’s great­est joys in life. The prop­erty has been sold, and will become a cit­rus farm­ing oper­a­tion. Randy fears that more olive ranches will come to their demise this way because pro­duc­ing oranges and man­darins is more lucra­tive.

In California they include olives as one of the state’s many per­ma­nent crops. Years like this one destroy per­ma­nency, and they destroy jobs. This year might have destroyed Randy Childress’s long stand­ing ties with the olive indus­try too, but he hopes not. At the least it will be a harsh adjust­ment.

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