The olive (Olea europaea L.) is the oldest known cultivated crop. Originating in the deserts of the Middle East, olives are grown from the warm Andalusian plains of southern Spain to the chilly Himalayan hillsides of Nepal. Carbon-fiber evidence suggests olives were consumed near the Mediterranean coast 10,000 years ago. Today there are 2000 named olive cultivars and more new varieties in development. In 2016, a crucial scientific threashold was crossed when Spain documented the olive genome using a 1300 year old Fargo olive tree. Spanish agricultural scientiests developed new varieties like cv. Arbequina and cv. Chiquitita to enable high-density planting and mechanical harvesting. Other varieties are developed for resistance to disease and drought. The climatic adaptability of the olive is obvious as it is grown in over 30 countries. Today the Florida Olive Council is searching for a low chill olive cultivar for Florida. Such a cultivar could render acres of now-fallow citrus land productive again and create a multi-million dollar industry. Read More
4000 Acres of Olives Planted 40 Miles North of Tallahassee
Agrigrada, a Swiss corporation, planted a 4,000 acre olive grove near Colquitt, GA, approximately 40 miles north of Tallahassee, FL. The grove was established in 2017 and suffered some damage from Hurricane Michael. Aurelien Rifaut, Co-Founder and Director of Agrigrada (pictured above) has repaired damaged areas of the grove and expects to harvest his first crop in two years. The high-density grove includes Arbequina, Koroneiki and a new Leccino-Arbequina cross provided by Agromillora, a large Spanish firm.
North Florida Olive Field Day – 2019
The Florida Olive Council hosted the 2019 North Florida Olive Field day on November 20 at the Greengate Olive Grove near Marianna, FL. Fifty attendees heard presentations by UF-IFAS scientists and Florida olive growers. Aurelien Rifaut (pictured below), manager of a 4,000 acre high density olive grove in Colquitt, GA (40 miles north of Tallahassee) gave a detailed view of the extensive operation. Sally and David Gist, owners of Greengate, provided breakfast and lunch as well as a tour of the five acre grove. Greengate is the oldest continuously operating olive grove in Florida. The Gists operate the grove as an agro-tourism operation hosting weddings and other events amongst the beautiful olive trees. For more information contact Sally Gist.
Careful Using Herbicides Near Olive Trees
Glyphosate and some other herbicides are injurious to olive trees. While herbicides will not generally harm mature olive trees; application of herbicides when trees are small (<2 years) can cause signifcant damage and even death. In the photo at left, a “pre-emergent” herbicide commonly used in Florida citrus groves has systemic impact on a 3 year old cv. Arbequina. While not killing a mature tree, some herbicides and particularly those not applied correctly, can reduce the tree’s ability to uptake nutrients. Before applying herbicides near your olive trees contact your supplier and find out if the product is safe for olive (Olea europaea L.).
Careful mulching and cultivation practices are the best way to prevent weeds from threatening olive trees, particularly smaller trees. In addition to hand-labor there are several solutions that might be considered including a sweeping mechanism such as pictured below. There is a discussion of glyphosate and health concerns here.
Florida Olive Council Featured Vendor
OLIVE TREES AND OLIVE OIL
The Florida Olive Group markets quality olive trees and olive oil. For more information contact: Stuart Alfonso.
Future Florida Agriculture
Shall we continue 19thcentury agriculture practices, feeding more water and chemicals into market-marginalized, disease-prone mono-cultures; or embrace a 21stcentury paradigm of nature-considerate, cultivar-diverse cash crops selling profitably into expanding global markets accessed at light speed?
Does anyone really think the citrus industry will return to pre-2000 levels? How long will big agriculture’s nitrogen effluent and deadly algae blooms, be sustainable? Can family-owned timber and cow-calf operations withstand the pressure of urban encroachment? From the Capitol dome in Tallahassee to the tractor cab in Immokalee; Florida agriculture needs new ideas and new leadership.
We need an informed, transformative approach. We must leverage our first-on-market natural geographic advantage. We must encourage our brilliant agricultural scientists as they develop high-value crops with global demand. Government must facilitate this transformation with logical water and land use policies and an aggressive multi-platform marketing campaign linking customers and farmers.
Let Florida take the lead and set an example for the nation creating an environmentally-considerate and crop-diverse agriculture that will sustain our farm families into the next century.
Biosecurity and the Vulnerability of Monocultures is a short and very informative article on the threats to our food supply. The article discusses how our food is genetically distributed and how vectors, often imported from abroad, infect and in may cases destroy crops on a large scale. The author discusses disease transmission vulnerabilities (Hurricane Ivan – 2004- brought soybean rust disease from Columbia) and the impact on the supply chain (e.g, annual wheat losses due to wheat rusts, a prominent fungal infection, are estimated at $5 billion). Download free from our Florida Olive Research Library.
Basic Olive Cultivation
The olive (Olea europaea L.) has been cultivated in Florida for over 400 years and currently there are several producing olive groves in the State. However, Florida olive cultivation is still in the experimental stage-more research is needed. If you are considering planting olives in Florida as a hobby or a commercial enterprise, we suggest you start with this section.
In this section find the latest domestic and international olive news, olive research, current market conditions, political and regulatory environments, olive oil consumption and quality and social media content. In addition, this section has links to health-related news on olives and olive products, Power-Point presentations on olives, Utube “How To” videos, and other video segments on olive cultivation, harvesting, milling, and marketing.
Here Grower-Members can find access to information from olive growers in Florida and internationally. The forum discusses topics like soils, irrigation, pests and production; or start your own discussion thread. The Grower’s Forum also includes links to the Florida Olive Research Database and periodic reports on the progress of field trials and cooperative research.
The Research Library is a good starting point for Grower-Members to learn more about olives. The library contains hundreds of research reports, U-Tube Videos, government documents and foreign publications on olive history, cultivation practices, genetics, disease, reproduction, economics, olive oil chemistry, Florida cultivation and other topics.
Florida Olive Pioneers
Don Mueller is The Godfather of Florida Olives. Don and his wife Jan discovered olives during a trip to Italy staying at a rural guest house located next to a producing olive grove. Inspired, Don studied olive production and various aspects of olive cultivation and found varieties that would produce in Florida’s panhandle. He planted what has become the oldest consistently producing olive grove in Florida featuring several varieties of Italian, Greek and Spanish olives.
He began installing trees on a five acre plot near Compass Lake (Astor/Marianna) in 1999. As the olive trees took hold, in the red clay of Jackson County they began to flower and produce beautiful fat olives. Don, an engineer by training, then set up a home olive processing line, made olive oil and brined olives. The Greengate Olive Grove has been producing olives and olive oil for the past 15 years.
Don won a gold medal at an international olive oil competition and has bottled olive oil and produced olives for U-pick operations that take place every year around October. Olive lovers travel hundreds of miles to sample Don’s unique crop. After 20 years of hard work and determination Don has developed a beautiful olive grove. In 2017, Sally and David Gist purchased Don’s grove and continue to lovingly care for the olive trees. The grove hosts a U-pick opportunity in the Fall. Pick your own olives for table or oil. Contact Sally: firstname.lastname@example.org
William (Bill) Lambert
Bill Lambert, Executive Director of the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority, is one of the true Florida agricultural pioneers. A life-long resident of Hardee County, Bill watched as HLB disease devastated his neighbor’s citrus groves. The situation went from bad to worse. In 2000, agriculture (primarily citrus) accounted for 33% of Hardee County’s GDP; by 2016 agriculture represented only 18%. USDA says 3,000 acres of citrus groves are abandoned in Hardee County (2017). Bill realized research to find a solution to HLB must continue; but he also felt having a back-up plan was a prudent idea. In 2016, Lambert approached the Florida Olive Council and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Department of Horticulture to explore new or Pioneer crops. In partnership with the Florida Olive Council, Lambert helped fund the Pioneer Plant Lab at UF-IFAS for the study of new alternative crops for Florida. Lambert and his team also cleared 20 acres of abandoned orange grove near Wauchula and planted several hundred Olive trees, Pongamia, Turmeric, Hops and other experimental crops. Myles Albritton, another life-long Hardee County grove manager, over sees the research. Contact Bill or Myles at: email@example.com.
Dr. Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman
Dr. Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman is a professor of Entomology at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Over the past seven years, Dr. Gillett-Kaufman has been a true leader in Florida olive research. With support from the Florida Olive Council and others, Dr. Gillett-Kaufman set out to document pests and diseases affecting Florida olive. Her publication on the topic: “Pests and Fungal Organisms Identified on Olives in Florida” remains the most authoritative guide to olive pests and diseases and is a must-read for anyone contemplating planting an olive tree in Florida. Dr. Gillett-Kaufman continues to research pests and diseases on olive trees by installing insect traps and other research equipment at several olive groves in Florida. In addition, Dr. Gillett-Kaufman has produced posters and other publications informing farmers and nursery operators about signs of disease in olive trees. Dr. Gillett-Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom “Oliveson” Olsen is another of Florida’s distinguished olive pioneers. Tom established his small (1 acre) experimental grove 20 years ago near Hastings, FL (St. Johns County). Planted on pine land and close to some low areas, the grove had many challenges over the years. Tom is probably one one of the top grower experts on disease and environment elements affecting olive trees in Florida and has learned some of the secrets of olive growing in Florida. For example, Tom has a groundwater measurement well dug so he can determine if his olive tree roots will be stressed after a hard rain elevates the water table. Tom has installed a fertigation system of his own design and reports good growth on most of his trees. He has had various encounters with glassy-winged sharpshooters, stink bugs and deer. Tom has a championed the Chemlali variety with outstanding results and continues to experiment with several other varieties that will adapt well to the climate and soils in northeast Florida. Contact Tom at: email@example.com
Alex Ford and Richard Williams
Alex Ford and Richard Williams are 5th generation Florida farmers. Over the years they have cultivated ferns, citrus and pine trees. In 2010, the partners began to explore the possibility of growing olives on their land near De Leon Springs, FL. After conducting extensive research, they decided to plant a 20 acre high density grove of Arbequina, Arbosona and Koroneiki olive trees on a section of a former pine tree plantation.
They harvested their first crop in 2015 and despite setbacks, continue to harvest and press oil for their family and the local market. Chemical analysis of olive oil from the Ford-Williams grove demonstrates extraordinary characteristics and the partners are strong proponents of the healthful qualities of olive oil. They are hopeful they can stimulate interest in olive growing in the area of central Florida where the citrus industry struggles with HLB disease.
To support their work, Ford and Williams established Florida Olive Systems, Inc. to provide nursery stock to Florida growers and to assist with planning and development of olive groves throughout the State. Contact Richard Williams at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan and Stephen Carter
Jonathan Carter and his brother Stephen planted olives near Live Oak, Florida in 2012. The 30 acre high-density grove features Arbequina, Arbosona and Koroneiki olive trees. In addition, the Carter Brothers installed one of the first olive mills in Florida. The Carters first planted their farm in 2012 and added the Italian-imported olive oil mill in 2014. The variety of olive trees the Carters have typically take about five years to get to full production, but the trees can produce fruit in about three years. They plan to harvest their olives in fall 2016, but this year they want to go ahead and get started with oil production using other farms’ olives. The Carters anticipate producing up to 150 tons of olives per harvest in the future. They plan to make their own oil and contract their oil mill services to other growers in Florida and Georgia. Weather and cultivation challenges slowed early development of the grove but all that is behind the Carters and they look forward to many more seasons producing high quality olive oil, At present, the Carters have two distinct blends: White Label Brothers Blend, a robust, peppery oil; and Black Label Mild Brothers Blend, which has a mellow, buttery flavor. The Carters can be contacted at: email@example.com
Vicky Daniell had a dream to grow olives in the green swamp area near Clermont, FL. With the assistance of her family, Vicky cleared an old citrus grove, her father installed the irrigation system and they planted a 5 acre high-density olive grove. The six year old grove hosts producing Arbequina, Koroneiki and Arbosona olives. After some setbacks, the grove is in beautiful condition. Vicky will soon be pressing and selling high quality Florida olive oil on a regular basis.
Mary Tracey’s Heather Oaks Farm is an organic farm located near Lady Lake, FL. In addition to blueberries, honey, goats and a host of other beautiful natural foods, the farm hosts several hundred producing olive trees. Mary and her husband Bob planted Arbequina olive trees and have cared for them carefully.