As many of you know we moved to Willcox to start a vineyard. Our goal was to help the burgeoning wine industry which was struggling to produce enough Arizona grown fruit to make Arizona wine. For six years we planted, grew, and harvested grape varietals that were making amazing wine. Life was great.
Then one night in the spring of 2017, while we were hosting a dinner for some folks in the pistachio world wanting to learn about grapes, I had a discussion with a gentleman who used to grow olives and make olive oil. “Do you think we could grow olives here?” I asked. NO was the answer! Many of you know me and know I am not really good with just NO! “Why not” I responded. Here is where things got gray and I started to get a little excited.
After that dinner I started researching olives and olive oil grown in high elevations. Turns out it can be done. After more research and lots of chats with experts we bought and planted 5 varietals. Four Spanish varietals: Picqual, Mission, Arbequina, Manzanillo. One Italian varietal: Coratina. This was 2018. We waited, relived when they made it through the first winter. A record cold winter at that. We were so excited when spring came and they bloomed. At the same time terrified because spring in Willcox is very windy. Would the crazy spring winds blow off all the flowers? Finally, fruit and fruit set. We made it!
Stage two of the experiment. 2019. After many discussions we decided we would plant 2.5 acres of those same varietals. Three hundred and eighty olive trees in all. We bought an auger and drilled our holes. We got about 320 planted when we experienced a early frost in October with temperatures in the low 20’s. That put a stop to our planting.
We continue to check on the little olive trees to see how they are tolerating the winter. So far so good. They all have shelters and the remaining trees are in the garage and the green house waiting for the spring. To be continued......