Growing Olives in Oregon

By Logan Bennett

Arbequina olives, ready for harvest. This variety is often grown in Oregon. Adobe stock photo by CSAR

Many Oregonians are agriculturalists at heart. From hardworking farmers to home gardeners who enjoy growing their own food and flowers, Oregonians like growing crops.

Oregon is a major agricultural center, ranking as a top producer nationally of filberts, many seed crops, Christmas trees and rhubarb. Oregon hops are used in beverages across the nation, and the state’s unique climates—combined with spectacular soils—provide a world-class terroir to grow wine grapes.

Oregonians thrive on innovation and are pioneers in production, growing specialty crops. For example, many blueberry growers also produce mini kiwi fruit alongside their main crop.

These business decisions not only diversify the state’s crop production potential, they earmark Oregon as a state that makes novel choices in agriculture.

For thousands of years, humans have cultivated olives to produce fruit for oil and eating.

Olive oil has been used for as long as the crop has been grown. Historically, the oil was used for trading, as a fuel source, in perfumes and for bathing.

In modern times, olive oil is a staple in many American households for cooking. The distinct flavors that come from olives complement many dishes.

Olives are grown in Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii, California and, more recently, Oregon.

Oregon’s olive production is mainly small scale, with most growers operating on fewer than 20 acres of land.

Oregon State Extension has a team of researchers working in conjunction with the state’s growers to study cold hardiness, best varieties, transplanting and starting olives for Oregon.

As with the wine Oregonians produce, Oregon’s distinctive environment produces specialty olive oil, with unique-tasting notes and a characteristic profile unlike many of the oils found at grocery stores.

Its profiles make it a specialty product that can be used in gourmet culinary dishes, making it sought after by both professional and home chefs.

The Douglas County Small Farms Program is collaborating with a local olive producer, Oregon River Ranch Olive Oil Co., to do a tour and tasting of its crop Friday, August 26, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.

During this field tour, participants walk through a production-size olive grove and learn about best management practices for producing olives for oil in Oregon. Participants receive instruction from the grove agricultural manager and OSU Extension agents Logan Bennet and Heather Stoven. Participants also receive an update on the extension service olive program.

After the field tour, participants may attend an olive oil tasting with the farm’s project manager.

The cost of the workshop is $10. Registration closes on August 19.

To register for the Growing Olives in Oregon workshop, visit the OSU website or call OSU Extension in Douglas County at (541) 672-4461.

For more information, call Logan Bennett at 541-236-3015 or email Logan Bennett