Olive oil lovers can help to supporter growers and producers in exchange for a share of the oil produced and the knowledge that their financial assistance supports and maintains the cultural heritage of olive-growing regions.
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) allows consumers to provide financial support to farmers in exchange for a share of the harvest. Following a similar model, several olive growers in Europe and the United States offer a CSA-type package as well. Some of these programs use an adoption model, through which the participant’s fee supports an individual tree or grove and guarantees a specific amount of oil over the course of a year. Others stick to a traditional CSA share, with the funds raised through the program spread over the entire olive-growing process.
Nudo claims to be the first company to offer olive tree adoption packages. Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb developed the program in 2005 after they restored a 21-acre olive grove in Le Marche, Italy. Nine years later, Katharine Doré — who is now the director of Nudo Adopt — and her son, Toby, joined their olive grove in Liguria to Nudo Adopt, providing a wider choice to customers. The program enables small-scale olive oil producers to get their product to a wide, international audience. Though Nudo has customers throughout the world, most adoptive tree “parents” live in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Customers can choose from various options, from seasonal to biannual to gift adoptions.
Family-run TRE Olive offers packages for customers in the United States and Canada. The family has been producing oil in Calabria, Italy, since 1934. In 2009, three cousins (hence the company name) from the branch of the family that emigrated to western Massachusetts formed their adoption program to enable the family to maintain the high quality of their product. Customers pay to adopt a tree on a yearly basis and receive a total of three liters of olive oil from the grove as well as documentation about their tree.
Perched in the rugged landscape of Umbria, La Rogaia created its adoption program to support efforts to preserve the cultural landscape and unique habitat of the region. Their ancient olive trees have been the mainstay of generations, and the dry-stone walls that terrace the steep slopes are labor-intensive and expensive to keep up. La Rogaia offers a variety of packages, from a basic annual tree adoption to a life-long adoption with a decorative statue created for the customer and a guaranteed amount of oil delivered.
A little over an hour away from La Rogaia, Suzy’s Yard in Cetona, Siena, offers an adoption program to help support its nearly 1,000 olive trees. Though the farm has produced olive oil since 2008, an infestation of olive flies one year spurred the creation of the adoption program. Although Suzy’s Yard also produces wine, vegetables, honey, and other products, their profit margins are tight — as they are throughout much of the agricultural world — so the adoption program provides a way to fund the maintenance of the groves in case another season without a crop occurs.
After owner Suzie Alexander and her husband purchased an olive grove and made oil for the first time, they were hooked. Their philosophy of connecting people with rural areas and increasing awareness about food quality in their teaching farm and as participants in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program is extended in the open invitation olive tree adopters receive to visit the groves and see firsthand how their food is grown.
Especially Puglia founder, Michele Iadarola, developed a deep appreciation for agricultural traditions while growing up on a farm in Puglia, Italy. The now-fashionable concept of farm-to-table eating was a natural way of life for him and his family. While working in the United States, he saw how disconnected American consumers are from the sources of their food. Iadarola created Especially Puglia as a way to introduce consumers to the high-quality extra virgin olive oil Puglia is known for while educating them about the sustainable practices and rich variety of Pugliese agriculture. His goal is to foster the connection between those who enjoy this food and those who produce it. Olive tree adopters receive a three-liter tin of oil with a ceramic bottle crafted in Puglia from which to serve it. The package also includes information about the specific grove the oil came from and the people who harvested and pressed the oil.
Frog Hollow Farm
In Brentwood, California, Frog Hollow Farm provides a certified organic extra virgin olive oil add-on to its traditional Happy Child CSA program. The farm has a grove of approximately 300 olive trees and produces the oil with the help of nearby McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, where the actual olive pressing takes place. Participants can make a one-time oil purchase, or they can join the olive oil club to receive oil on a biweekly or monthly basis at a discount.
These adoption programs provide a way to make a connection between olive oil consumers and the producers who take pride in creating the highest-quality oil possible.