A Note from Farmer Rachel: A visit to McEvoy Ranch

Dear CSA Members,

Every fall, we bring our freshly picked olives to McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma to be milled into oil. On the farm, we pick our olives into large macrobins and once 14 bins are full (>8,000 pounds of fruit) we drive the full truckload up to McEvoy. Upon arrival at the mill, they are pressed same-day. This means that our olives transform from tree to oil in 1-3 days!

Two weeks ago, some of our team took a trip up to McEvoy to learn more about the post-harvest process. When we arrived at the ranch, we were greeted by our tour guides, Shari and Linda. First, we gathered together in the tasting room as they taught us some amazing history about Nan McEvoy, the founder of McEvoy Ranch. Nan was an impressively ahead of her time woman, not only an exquisite olive oil rancher but a social activist and entrepreneur.

At this point we were totally inspired by the stories of this strong female leader and we followed our guides into the milling room. Inside, the mill manager, Deborah Rogers, was running a batch of experimental mint-infused oil. As olives churned inside a huge open-air stone mill, Deborah chucked handfuls of mint inside. Not only do they make table oil at McEvoy, but they also have a line of skincare products, which is what Deborah was working on.

Shari explained to us that the most important rule when milling or storing olive oil is to minimize HALT - heat, air, light and time. For this reason, the big stone mill that Deborah was milling mint oil on is not what they typically use to press tasting oil. While this mill looks impressive, it actually introduces more of each of the HALT factors into the oil than other types of mills and is much harder to clean.

While Deborah worked at the stone mill, our olives were being milled in the enclosed blade mill a few feet away. The process:

  • First the olives are ground into a paste in the blade-mill

  • Then they flow into a malaxer, where the paste is warmed and stirred, to begin to separate the oil from the solids

  • Next, the paste is dumped into a decanter (horizontal centrifuge), further separating the oil from solids

  • From here, the oil goes through a vertical separator to remove the last particles and fruit water from oil

  • Finally, the oil is decanted into large drums, which will be driven back to Frog Hollow to be bottled

As we watched the process, Shari collected samples of oil for us to taste. Drinking the fresh oil while watching it decant was terrific! It tasted soft, thick and nutty, while leaving a good peppery flavor in the throat. The color was fantastic too, a bright bold greenish yellow.

Thank you Deborah, Shari and Linda for spending the morning teaching us! We learned so much from you and left McEvoy feeling empowered by the amazing woman in leadership there.

Organically yours,

Rachel