`Flynn Brings Olive Oil Education to D.C. Festival - Olive Oil Times

Flynn Brings Olive Oil Education to D.C. Festival

Jul. 13, 2012
Lara Camozzo

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Flynn (cen­ter) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival July, 2012 (UCD Olive Center photo)

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held every year on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Each year sees three new fes­ti­val themes. This sum­mer, the 46th edi­tion of the fes­ti­val fea­tured the USDA and Land-Grant University System — a part­ner­ship that is based on leg­is­la­ture signed by Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago in an effort to grant land and estab­lish uni­ver­si­ties, and help facil­i­tate the eco­nomic devel­op­ment of agri­cul­ture in the United States.

There are a num­ber of land-grant uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try, and University of California at Davis is one of them. The Smithsonian was inter­ested in high­light­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and that’s when the UC Davis Olive Center came to mind.

As a bik­ing cam­pus, the olive trees that lined a heav­ily trav­eled bike path would fall on the ground and cre­ate an extremely slip­pery sur­face. In 2004, it was cal­cu­lated that olive related acci­dents on the cam­pus amounted to $60,000 in legal costs and lia­bil­ity claims.

Sal Genito, then direc­tor of build­ings and grounds, sug­gested har­vest­ing the olives for oil as a sus­tain­able solu­tion to this costly haz­ard. In 2005, the cam­pus har­vested a cou­ple of tons of olives for the first time, and thanks to the com­mu­nity embrac­ing this idea, they sold out of the olive oil within days.

Around the same time, Dan Flynn was fin­ish­ing up 17 years as a leg­isla­tive con­sul­tant in Sacramento. When a group of University of California and Cooperative Extension olive sup­port­ers pro­posed an edu­ca­tional cen­ter for olives and olive oil under the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, Dan was a log­i­cal choice as the inau­gural exec­u­tive direc­tor in 2007. The UC Davis Olive Center was then launched in 2008.

Today, the cen­ter pro­duces almost 600 gal­lons of olive oil dur­ing a good har­vest. Next year will mark the first har­vest of the 8 acres of olive trees that have been planted on cam­pus since the incep­tion of the pro­gram. Proceeds go toward some of the olive center’s bud­get.


Flynn, who is now the Executive Director of the Olive Center, shared his expe­ri­ence at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. At the fes­ti­val we talked about this sus­tain­able solu­tion to this prob­lem on cam­pus, but we also talked about how olive oil is made, what are some of the attrib­utes of good olive oiland the defects of bad oil, and we had peo­ple smell sam­ples of famil­iar oil ver­sus fresh oil.”

One of the things we’re look­ing to do is help con­sumers get bet­ter qual­ity, so we sug­gest that they look for a har­vest date on the label. We’re try­ing to impress upon them the impor­tance of fresh­ness, because olive oil is a nat­ural prod­uct and it’s bet­ter when it’s fresher.”

We also dis­cussed the stud­ies that (the Olive Center) did which found that a high per­cent­age of the imported super­mar­ket olive oil wasn’t up to extra vir­gin stan­dards. We found that there are a lot of peo­ple who were sur­prised by this, and while some peo­ple could smell the dif­fer­ence between the sam­ple oils, oth­ers were very savvy when it came to olive oil — it was quite a range.”

Flynn also held a few demon­stra­tions touch­ing on the myths of olive oil. For exam­ple, the myth that you can’t fry with extra vir­gin. Flynn wowed the crowd when he fried pota­toes in extra vir­gin olive oil, and the sky didn’t fall.”


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