Sustainable, Organic Production Helps One California Producer Standout

Gold Ridge Organic Farms earned three Gold Awards and a Silver Award at the 2021 NYIOOC. The owner said organic production was the key to their success.

Brooke Hazen
Jun 10, 2021 12:24 PM EDT
By Wasim Shahzad
Brooke Hazen

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Gold Ridge Organic Farms is among the California pro­duc­ers lead­ing the way in sus­tain­able and organic olive oil pro­duc­tion meth­ods, despite the dom­i­nance of imports in the North American mar­ket.

At the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the Northern California pro­ducer earned three Gold Awards and a Silver Award for all four of its entries.

I was inspired by a great love affair with the grace and ele­gance of the olive tree. I believe it is the most beau­ti­ful of all crops to grow.- Brooke Hazen, owner, Gold Ridge Organic Farms

It felt truly amaz­ing [to receive these awards],” owner Brooke Hazen told Olive Oil Times. We are so hon­ored and grate­ful to receive such spe­cial appre­ci­a­tion for all of the hard work, time, ded­i­ca­tion and deter­mi­na­tion that went into pro­duc­ing such excep­tional olive oils.”

Our har­vest was excel­lent last year,” he added. I was able to obtain 4,500 gal­lons for my four sig­na­ture blends from my groves in Sebastopol.”

See Also: Producer Profiles

For Hazen, these awards fur­ther val­i­date the authen­tic­ity of his brand and the hard work it takes to achieve a qual­ity stan­dard that is not easy to imi­tate.

Gold Ridge Organic Farms is located in north­ern Californias West Sonoma County. Sitting approx­i­mately 80 kilo­me­ters north of San Francisco, the city of Sebastopol is a near-per­fect region for olive cul­ti­va­tion due to the opti­mal soil and ideal cli­mate.

Our farm sits 10 miles (16 kilo­me­ters) inland from the beau­ti­ful Sonoma Coast and the Pacific Ocean,” Hazen said. The prox­im­ity to the ocean influ­ences our cli­mate and our soils and makes our oils unique and lively. Our grow­ing sea­son is long and cool, which con­tributes to the high polyphe­nol lev­els in our oils.”

Growing olives organ­i­cally is a cru­cial com­po­nent of Hazen’s vision. He believes that organic cul­ti­va­tion yields olives that are both health­ier and more fla­vor­ful. He added that his organic farm­ing prac­tices help cre­ate olive oils rich in fla­vor, taste and antiox­i­dants.

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I was inspired by a great love affair with the grace and ele­gance of the olive tree. I believe it is the most beau­ti­ful of all crops to grow,” Hazen said. It started with plant­ing and grow­ing olive trees and nat­u­rally expanded into press­ing the olives into olive oil.”

Olives are planted once in their life­time,” he added. They are known as the Grandparent Tree’ because they live for many gen­er­a­tions… The trees can live for mil­len­nia.”

In the cool coastal envi­ron­ment of Sebastopol, Hazen usu­ally begins har­vest­ing his olives in mid-November and con­tin­ues until Christmas.

However, even before the har­vest begins, Hazen spends plenty of time among his trees. Ensuring they receive plenty of water, nutri­ents and prun­ing improves the qual­ity of the fruit.

After har­vest­ing, the olives are processed at an organic mill, which was built in 2001. Hazen installed an Italian Rapanelli press, which processes the olives within a few hours after har­vest­ing.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from the United States

Hazen and his team then craft their four care­fully selected blends of Italian, French and Spanish vari­etals, of which the pro­duc­ers take great pride.

Our four olive oil blends are also unique,” he said. Gold Ridge Organic Farms earned two Gold Awards for olive oils blended from Italian vari­eties.

The Tuscan Blend is crafted from mostly Frantoio and Leccino olives, with a small amount of Maurino and Pendolino cul­ti­vars as well. Meanwhile, the Minerva Blend is made from Minerva, Frantoio and Maurino olives with a touch of Cerasoula and Ladoelia.

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Hazen and his team also earned a Gold Award for a medium Piccholine blend, which con­tains Aglandau, Bouteillian, Solonenque, Grossane and Cayon olives. The pro­duc­ers won a Silver Award for a medium Arbequina blend, com­pris­ing Empeltre, Leccin de Seville, Hojiblanca, Picual and Manzanilla olives.

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Certification is an impor­tant part of this process, and all of the company’s olive oils are cer­ti­fied organic by California Certified Organic Farmers and extra vir­gin by the California Olive Oil Council.

Hazen said his prod­ucts stand apart from com­peti­tors as a result of a method­i­cal pro­duc­tion process, uniquely crafted blends and qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Despite all the work that Hazen and his team put into each har­vest, the pro­ducer sees the California olive oil sec­tor as being prone to mar­ket trends and con­sumer behav­ior like any other indus­try.

According to Hazen, the avail­abil­ity of cheap and low-qual­ity imported olive oils is the biggest chal­lenge faced by the indus­try.

Cheap imported oils have flooded the mar­ket, dri­ven down prices and con­fused the con­sumers,” he said. Most con­sumers have no idea what healthy fresh olive oil actu­ally should taste and look like.”

The Californian olive oil indus­try has been mak­ing attempts to change this through legal chan­nels and lob­by­ing,” he added.

However, Hazen said his awards from the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition go a long way in demon­strat­ing to con­sumers what dif­fer­en­ti­ates high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil from the rest of the pack.

Our team is grate­ful for the recog­ni­tion of qual­ity,” Hazen con­cluded. Farming is a dif­fi­cult jour­ney with many long days invested into rais­ing the fruit. So, the acknowl­edg­ment feels good.”


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