'Godfather' of North Coast Olive Oil Goes International

After 35 years as the farm advisor to Sonoma and Marin counties, Paul Vossen is taking his expertise in apples, grapes and olives on the road, as an ag consultant and globetrotter.

Like any other home gardener, former UC Cooperative Extension horticulture adviser Paul Vossen, 59, still gets excited by the discovery of a few red, juicy tomatoes ripening on his own vines.

“Hey, look at these,” he shouts as he gives a tour of his Bennett Valley back yard. “Do you need any basil? Any cucumbers?”

When he first arrived in Sonoma County in 1981, Vossen conducted his own farm experiments, growing some of the first heirloom tomatoes in Sonoma County along with fruits like berries. At the time he was living on three acres in Windsor.

“I used it as a demonstration garden to show farmers how to grow that crop,” he said. “I had a lot of fun, but I also found out how much work it was.”

After serving for 35 years as the farm advisor to Sonoma and Marin counties, Vossen retired at the end of June. But the fruits of his labor — the high-quality apples, grapes and olives of the North Coast he has scientifically researched and helped promote — will still play a role in his new life as an ag consultant and globetrotter.

“I’m going to work on a project in Albania with the U.S. Agency for International Development,” he said. “They have a lot of olives there, but it’s a poor country. The quality is not very good.”
Widely known as the godfather of California olive oil, Vossen was instrumental in helping a handful of olive-growing pioneers in Wine Country who dreamed of making extra virgin olive oil that would rival the region’s renowned wines. More
Photo of Paul Vossen by Alvin Jornada, The Press Democrat