On July 1, 2007 we planted 600 olive trees.
Ultra high density planting (10 feet between rows and 5 foot spacing between plants with a two wire trellis) was chosen with the intent of growing exclusively for oil. Half of the trees planted were Arbosana and half Arbequina. These two varietals from Northern Spain have shown cold tolerance that we believed would give us the best chance for regular crops in spite of our borderline cold temperatures in winter. We were wrong, or at least half wrong.
We have learned a lot about olives. Unfortunately that has been at the expense of many trees. We have lost a large number of trees to cold weather, but are learning which varieties best handle our climate. We now have about 450 living trees (of a total of about 1400 total planted over 8 years)
We now have Arbequina, Arbosana, Aglandau, Picholene, Pendolino, Picual, Grignon, Frantoio, Leccino, Picudo, Taggiasca, Chaquitita, Cailletier, and Bouteillan. The ones ending in “o” are varieties from Tuscany, the northernmost olive growing region in Europe.
Ken, Penny and Paul Durant (oregonolivemill.com and Red Ridge Farms and Durant Vineyards) are among the true pioneer olive growers in the Willamette Valley. They have installed the first modern commercial Olive Mill in Oregon. With a mill in the area, we are able to produce gourmet olive oils that are fresher than anything known in the Northwest. Until 2012, we gave our olives to the Durants to add to their oil. Beginning with the 2012 harvest (in November), we have had enough fruit to mill oil from exclusively Calamity Hill olives.
Eventually, assuming we can find the right combination of varieties to tolerate our growing conditions, we hope to harvest from 1 to 2 tons of olives a year. Assuming the varieties produce at normal rates, we should expect about 25-35 gallons per ton or as much as 50 gallons of olive oil. Hold a good thought for us!