California Olive Oil Industry Holds 99 Percent Share of U.S. Olive Oil Production
Oroville, Calif. - Consumers are catching on to the distinct taste of California olive oil, similar to the rise in popularity of California wines. In fact, many believe that the state's olive oil industry to be where its wine industry was 30 or 40 years ago.
Lodestar Farms in Oroville, Calif. is leading the charge in producing olive oil from Mission olives, a varietal associated with this select region of Northern California. Jamie Johansson, owner of Lodestar Farms, has been farming olives at his family's serene 80-acre Olive Branch Ranch since 1993.
In addition to producing Lodestar's own Mission Olive Oil, Johansson operates as a broker of olives for ten of California's private label brands. He supplies olives to olive oil companies from Santa Barbara, Calif. to Mendocino, Calif. By running the bulk of his business from behind-the-scenes of the rapidly growing California olive market, Johansson has gained invaluable knowledge about the dynamics of the lucrative California olive oil industry.
"About 70 percent of all Mission olives in the world are grown near Oroville, Calif.," said Johansson. Franciscan Missionaries who settled along the coast of California planted the first Mission olive trees in 1769, and Mission olives have been growing in Oroville for more than 100 years. "If the back of the label says Northern California olives, you can be pretty sure that they came from the Oroville region."
The majority of the California olive oil industry has successfully strived to imitate the world's finest Italian olive oils. Conversely, Lodestar Farm's has embraced the challenge to create an olive oil that would be recognized internationally as having a unique "California" flavor, signature to the Oroville region.
In the prestigious 2001 Los Angeles County Fair's "Oils Of The Americas" tasting, nine medal winners (out of 18 total categories) contained olives grown in Oroville, Calif. Oroville is consistently recognized industry-wide for its unparalleled success in producing olives for California's ‘new' industry.
Olives are traditionally harvested in the late fall and early winter. Johansson is able to create the distinct flavor of Lodestar Olive Oil because his ranch is located at an elevation between 600-700 feet above sea level in an atmospheric zone called an Inversion layer. In this unique Mediterranean-like climate, it is uncommon for temperatures to reach a freezing point that damages the olives, enabling a later harvest. A late harvest is imperative to create California's only true regional olive oil flavor. When olives are harvested and pressed later in the season, the result is an oil with a sweeter, butterier flavor.
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) certifies Lodestar Olive Oil as "Extra Virgin." The Seal of the COOC ensures consumers that the quality and taste of this olive oil meet International "Extra Virgin" standards.
"The Oroville foothills provide a unique micro-climate that reduces the chance of early fall frost damage to olive crops grown in the area," observes Joe Connell, a University of California Farm Advisor and co-author of Producing Olive Oil In California , " A warm thermal belt found in foothill elevations between 500 and 900 feet allows olives to be held on the trees later into the season with less risk of frost damage. These conditions allow a late harvest of quality fruit, providing a consistent opportunity for the production of a full flavored olive oil."
Lodestar Farms product line currently includes:
Lodestar Traditional Late Harvest: A provincial olive oil. Olives cultivated for Lodestar Traditional Late Harvest are harvested and pressed later in the season to create an oil with a sweeter, butterier flavor. Its taste is unique to California and signature to the region's Mission Olives.
Lodestar Lemon Infused Olive Oil: New for 2002!Lodestar Lemon Infused Olive Oil is a combination of late harvested Mission olives and citrus from Eureka lemons. The true lemon taste of this lemon infused olive oil is the perfect enhancement for seafood and poultry.
Suggested retail prices range from $9.99 - $25.99 for 250ml bottle of Traditional Late Harvest blend. Lodestar Olive Oil is available in local retail outlets throughout Northern California. For more information on Lodestar Farms Olive Oil, visit www.lodestarfarms.com or call 530-534-OLIV (6548).