Kelsey Reflects on Her Recent Visit with Frate Sole Olive Oil

Kelsey Reflects on Her Recent Visit with Frate Sole Olive Oil

Last month FRB staff, board directors, and some volunteers traveled to out to the West Coast to the Sacramento area. There were two purposes for this trip: first was to hold a board meeting and second was to explore the potential for growing project development on the west coast.
Before I left, I was told that in Northern California they grow a lot of rice. Being from the Midwest, this sounded exotic and exciting … and it was. As my plane circled closer black fields of rich soil and glassy water stretched out all directions. The air often has a musty tang of rotting stalks and wet soil. As we drove north out of Sacramento toward the university town of Chico the rice fields continued but their vast darkness was punctuated by orchards clustered on alternating sides of the road. Being January, none of the orchards had leaves so brown dormant skeletons stood in row after row. Some were tall and majestic with spreading branches and some were short, stubby and sparse while others were twisted and rough barked.

The apple orchards and peach trees I could identify those but the nut trees which I decided were the larger and more majestic could not be identified by name. This is not surprising as they grow almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans in the area. Providing stark contrast among the black fields and the skeletal wintry orchards are lone palm trees which stand sentinel at every farm house, barn, and fruit stand. The growing conditions in this part of the country are responsible for the beautiful cross section of agriculture and fauna found there: rice, nuts, fruits and vegetables, dairy.

While we all learned something during our time in Sacramento the biggest learning experience came from a Saturday morning of generous hospitality from Frate Sole olive oil. A small family operation Frate Sole grows 5 varieties of Tuscan olives and produces delicious high quality oil from the olives. Olive oil is the one of the simplest and most ancient of foods. The olive tree grows the olives, the farmer picks them and the press squeezes them to produce the oil. Left mostly to their own devices olive trees can live past 2000 years old.

Olive harvests have been, till now, wonderfully simple and unchanged. When the olives ripen they are handpicked from the trees as no machine has been invented yet to harvest olives. As we learned during our morning with Frate Sole, just now within the last few years, growers have designed a way to grow olives in a way similar to grapes which now allows for mechanical harvests. The looming question for these growers is life span; no one knows how long an olive will last when asked to grow like a vine rather than a tree.

We came away from that morning with bottles of oil tucked under our arms, smiles on our faces and new friends on our mind. We also came away with a new sense of wonderment and gratitude. Wonderment at the diversity and beauty of creation that sustains us and gratitude that we should be so blessed with those who tend it with love, respect and dignity. Farming, agriculture and those who make it their life's work often seem to fulfill the prayer of St. Francis.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury ,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.”  

Our journey in California ended with hope, with new beginnings, and with the vision of olives, rice, corn, orchards, soybeans, cattle, chickens, wheat and vegetables as instruments of peace both around the world and at home.  

Written by Kelsey Day, Resource Development & Communications Coordinator

03/05/2012 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment