Field Report #9
Greetings from Fat Gold!
The olive harvest is here. We’ll tell you about two things in this message, corresponding to two parts of the process.
Briefly, a reminder: if you subscribe to Fat Gold now (or purchase a one-year gift subscription for someone else), your first shipment of California extra virgin olive oil will arrive in the second week of December, in plenty of time for any ~winter celebrations~. That shipment will contain our 2019 oil made from moraiolo olives, milled this week!!
Now, the two things. First: finding the harvest balance.
This is our third olive harvest, and it’s a special one.
Our 2017 harvest had all the hallmarks of a FIRST: jittery excitement, mild chaos, relief.
Our second harvest, in 2018, featured an olivepocalypse (detailed here) that sent us out on the road, scooping up olives from other groves in other parts of California. A disappointment became an opportunity: to meet other olive growers around California; to choose brand-new varieties for our subscribers. What started totally deflating turned fascinating and ultimately super fun.
This year’s harvest, then, provides a synthesis:
The Fat Gold grove is BACK, the trees absolutely loaded with olives, so we’ll have plenty of oil made from the cultivars we grow: frantoio, leccino, maurino, moraiolo, taggiasca. These produce a bold and peppery, truly robust oil.
At the same time: Fat Gold has grown, and even a loaded grove isn’t enough to supply all of our subscribers and retail partners anymore. So, we’re building on the relationships forged in last year’s olivepocalypse and acquiring some fruit—specifically, varieties like picual and hojiblanca that we don’t have in our grove.
This really does feel like the best of both worlds: an offering anchored in the grove we farm ourselves, bolstered by some of the best olives we’ve ever seen, grown by friends & colleagues.
We’ve tinkered with our harvesting methods every year, and this year’s upgrade, although small, was very… visible.
We collect the olives by “combing” them off the trees using little hand-held rakes, which raises the question: where do they fall? In the past, we laid down heavy mesh nets, and they worked… fine. But the nets were awkward to manage and the olives tended to get pretty dirty.
This year, we found a better solution:
PARACHUTES! These are 24-foot play parachutes, designed for elementary school gym class, but also perfect, it turns out, for olive harvests—with the added bonus that they make the grove feel a bit like a circus.
The second thing we want to tell you about is… a moon base? A secret lab?
No: an olive mill! But, a special kind.
Our very first batch of 2019 oil was milled by Samir Bayraktar in his amazing Olive Truck, pictured above. It’s a complete olive mill engineered to fit inside a 40-foot shipping container, so it can be hauled and positioned anywhere—in this case, a lovely grove in the Sacramento River Valley. The box truck on the left side of that picture is ours; it’s full of leccino olives :)
We documented an evening at Sam’s mill on Instagram; there’s a whole photo story there that will give you a sense of the scene.
As I say in that post, this really feels like the future of olive milling in California, particularly for small producers like us. Sam’s mill happily takes small batches; contrast that with the big mills that need several tons just to get started. And the Olive Truck is flexible—you can move it around as the harvest progresses, bringing the mill to the olives, rather than the other way around.
Because our costs have changed a little, we’re going to increase the price of a subscription to $179 starting on December 1. All existing subscriptions will, however, continue at $169—including subscriptions started now, or anytime in November! So, if you’d like to sneak in at $169, or snag a gift subscription at that price, now’s the time.
You might have seen these already, but:
- There was a nice article in Eater about the publication we send with every shipment, and
- Epicurious called us one of the two best olive oil subscriptions!!
The harvest continues. We’ve “combed” about two-thirds of the trees in the grove. We’re doing the remainder next week. It’s hard work. It’s fun. We can’t wait to share this oil with you!
–Robin and Kathryn