November 2020: Olive improv

Greetings from Fat Gold!

We are midway through the 2020 olive harvest, and I’m going to tell you how it’s proceeding, but I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you, first, that a subscription to Fat Gold makes a terrific gift.

If you buy one now, your recipient’s first shipment will go out in the second week of December, then continue for a year, which is four shipments total. You can get all the details right here.

All the oil that goes into these shipments, we make in October and November, so: onto the harvest report!

Kathryn at work in Bakersfield

Fat Gold has always benefited from the support of many friends & peers, and that’s become even more true in this harvest season, our first without a grove of our own. The company’s full legal name is “Fat Gold Productions LLC,” which we chose four years ago, partially in homage to the adventures we both had as stage managers in high school theater, and partially—okay, mainly—because it sounded cool.

However, the name was prescient! In this new phase, Fat Gold is all ABOUT the production: choreographing the different parts & players so they’re in the right place at the right time; so the olive oil flows.

Here’s a look at where we’ve taken the show so far this year, a constellation of groves and mills spangled across California:

The Fat Gold route

In French winemaking, there’s a term for a kind of producer who buys grapes (or even, in some cases, fresh wine) from many different growers, then offers it to the world under their own label: the négociant.

The négociant is a merchant, for sure, but they are also a curator and a conductor. The négociant might not own vines, but they know what kind of grapes they love; indeed, their very lack of vines liberates them, permits them to survey the whole field, coaxing new combinations into existence.

Kathryn and I operate Fat Gold Productions LLC together, but there is no question: Kathryn is the négociant. It’s been a privilege to watch her work this season, lighting up her network, chasing down leads, planning the careful transit and handling of all these olives. It’s a kind of labor that is very precise but also, in a way, improvisational.

Last week, we bought ten tons of frantoio olives from a delightful grower about an hour east of our base in Oakland, and we loved how the oil turned out. On Thursday, Kathryn got a message from that grower. She was fearful of a possible frost, so she wondered, would we be interested in buying some more fruit? Like, soon?

Kathryn looked up from her phone and said, “Let’s get four more tons.” When? “Saturday morning.” Improvisation.

(To give myself a tiny bit of credit: when those four tons of olives trundled from the grove to the mill that morning, it was me driving the truck! ✌️)

We are about two-thirds finished with this year’s harvest. The season’s fresh, filtered oil is socked away in stainless steel drums. Soon, we’ll put a batch into 500 ml tins; our first shipment to subscribers of this super fresh oil will be a blend of picual and arbequina olives that Kathryn has long dreamed of making. (Did I mention it’s a terrific gift?)

In the meantime: the productions continue!

Kathryn at work in San Martin

Thanks for following along,

–Robin and Kathryn

P.S. If you’d like to see some video snippets of the harvest so far, I’ve collected a few in a highlight reel on Instagram.

You can sign up to receive our seasonal Field Report, which includes harvest updates, olive oil intel, and the occasional coupon code: