Recently, I spent a day touring four different olive orchards in and around the state to see just how other growers got their start. My hope was to gain as much information as I could about the positives and negatives of growing this ancient fruit in Texas. From Sandy Oaks to Cotulla, I embarked on the opportunity to see first hand, the skill involved in the art of growing olives. What I discovered is that everyone who ventures this path continues to discover that there are high points of success and low valleys of learning associated with growing olives in Texas. From the horticulturally seasoned Sandy Winokur and her 230+ acre Sandy Oaks Olive Farm in Elmendorf, to the pair of young fellows, Steve Coffman and his brother-in-law Michael Paz, who single handedly took 140 of the reddest, sandiest acres in Cotulla, [Texana-Henrichson Ranch] and transformed it into a 80,000 tree work-in-progress olive farm.
I met alot of people that day. Some novice, some expert, but one couple in particular that I could actually relate to. Kevin and Melinda Knowles who live on a 40 acre slice of their family farm in Liberty Hill Texas, just outside of Austin. They also own a pretty cool food truck park in known as 5000 Burnet Road, in the center of Austin. They also have quite a bit more olive smarts than I do, that was very apparent, as we sat and talked about their experiences over dinner at the Blue Star Brewing Company the night before. But what I discovered, was that they wanted to share what they knew about growing olives in Texas, and that even though they were further ahead in their planning of their olive farm endeavor than I was, I could actually see myself in 4 or 5 years as a contender in the Texas olive business.
Alot of work will need to be done between now and then. First, the field needs to be stripped of it scrub trees. Next, the field will have to be disked and the soil will need to be amended. Although sulfur is a major component of the soil, in order to have future success in growing olives, we will need to get as much nitrogen back into the land, between now and planting. Next, will come the planting of a cover crop of sorts…most likely clover or winter rye. Then we will re-disk and turn the soil again to work the cover crop back into the soil, and to create berms, on which the trees will be planted. And so, this chapter in the journey begins.