Sharing in the Harvest: Olive Oil CSAs and Tree Adoption Programs

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.

By Pamela Hunt
Feb. 23, 2017 08:08 UTC

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 Adopt

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.

TRE Olive

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.

La Rogaia

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.

Suzy’s Yard

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.

Especially Puglia

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.


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