Oregon Project Aims to Promote Olive Oil Sector

A new project launched by Oregon State University (OSU) aims to help spread oliviculture throughout California’s northern neighbour.

The primary objectives of the Olea project will be to determine the most effective propagation techniques for olives in Oregon; identify which cultivars grow best in Oregon’s unique climate; assess the best transplanting and up-potting practices for achieving rapid orchard establishment; and making all of this information available to the public in order to help bolster the fledgling industry.

Sitting between 45 and 46 degrees of latitude, Oregon is located a bit farther north of other, more traditional, olive growing regions. However, growers and officials working on the Olea project believe that commercial olive growing can succeed here.

While no official production statistics are currently being kept – something that Olea seeks to change – Paul Durant, the master miller at Durant Olive Mills, estimates that Oregon produced about 5,000 liters of olive oil last year. Durant has a general ideal about this figure since he runs the only commercial mill in the state.

Production has slowly grown since Oregonians first began growing olives commercially about 15 years ago. While the sector has not experienced the same kind of steady growth that California has achieved in that time, the number of acres of olive trees has crept up to about 100, all of which are located in the valleys west of the Cascade Range.

“I think we’ve experienced kind of incremental growth,” Durant told Olive Oil Times. “People have gotten in and then they’ve gotten out. Then other people have gotten in.”

The incremental nature of this growth, and the overall success of the olive growers, has a lot to do with weather patterns, according to Javier Fernandez-Salvador, an assistant professor at OSU and lead investigator on the Olea project. More