Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2015 Harvest is Underway
The harvest at Frate Sole started in mid-October and will continue until late November. The crop is abundant and the weather has been cooperative-- dry and unseasonably warm! With the first real rain of the season coming on the 1st day of November, we may be done with irrigating of the orchard.
Below, Sam Mayer deploys a catcher designed and built by fellow Cal Poly ag-engineering student Alex Paris. The broad net fits under each tree. Jim and Sam operate an electric rake to loosen the olives, which roll to a bin secured under the center of the net. Along with the hand-picking, these gentle methods ensure quality, unblemished fruit.
Monarchs and the Olive Tree
The Monarchs have been getting more than their usual tabloid press these days. Their numbers are down, at least among the butterfly variety. As is often the case with troubled species, biologists are attributing the decline to a loss of habitat.
In particular, Monarch butterflies require milkweed as a host. They lay their eggs on the milkweed, and the small caterpillars become big caterpillars by chewing on milkweed leaves. The mature butterflies also like the nectar in the flowers, or at least that is what we have observed.
Growing olives organically sounds easy enough. But truth be told, controlling weeds with mowing and hoeing is a lot harder than with a spray rig, especially as the summer grows long and the days hot.
With drip irrigation, weeds grow in the wet spots. Many of the weeds are more than a nuisance – google "bristly oxtongue" to read about the worst – and all of them compete with the trees for water and nutrients.
Most organic orchardists come to accept that their rows will not have the “clean floor” of their chemical-using neighbors.
But the upside is knowing that you didn’t spray acres upon acres of herbicide on everything growing and moving, and eating what is growing.
Then you start noticing Monarchs in August. Monarchs? Occasionally. August? Every summer. But never before at the same time.
Then you find milkweed growing between the rows, where just enough water is dripping off the hose to keep it alive. And then the caterpillars.
Most of the benefits of organic production come from reducing the use of chemicals in the environment and on the food we eat. But there are other benefits, such as making just enough room for the rest of ecosystem to take hold.
You won’t find that in a high density olive orchard with a clean floor and a scissored canopy, ready to be harvested by a machine that looks like something out of a Transformer movie.
There is extra virgin olive oil – and thank goodness for the new standards to ensure quality. And then there is extra virgin olive oil good enough for Monarchs. You choose.
It's all about the olives
The fruit is hand-picked and cold-processed before the sun sets a second time to ensure fresh and flavorful oil.
The olives in the photograph are Coratinas ripening in the October sun.
At Frate Sole (aka Brother Sun), our business partners include Sister Rain and Mother Earth.
We do not use artificial chemicals or fertilizers. We plant cover crops to naturally increase the fertility of the soil. And we judiciously irrigate with a drip system. Our orchard has been graded to restore seasonal wetlands. The captured winter runoff provides habitat and replenishes the aquifer; the edges are newly planted with native oaks and grasses.
It is a place where people – and coyotes and rabbits, hawks and even the occasional snake – are the way God made them.
... with tomorrow in mind
Our goal is to create a sustainable enterprise that yields healthy and world-class olive oil in a flourishing ecosystem that will be worked and enjoyed by our children's children.
If you want to follow a sesaonal summary of what this really means, go to the Grower's Journal to track our activities, including events and awards.
We are glad you are here.
From the navigation bar on the left, you can learn all about us.
FRATE WHO describes why we picked an Italian name for a venture rooted in California's Sacramento Valley.
GROWER'S JOURNAL let's you follow along from season to season.
JUST ADD OIL provides recipes for some of our favorite ways to use extra virgin olive oil.
HARVEST PHOTOS gives you a glimpse of our favorite days of the year.
PRODUCT INFO tells you where you can buy Frate Sole.
The rest is the usual business.
Good as Gold
Frate Sole enters two competitions as a way to ensure you of our commitment to quality. The Los Angeles International Fair competition, and our own Yolo County Fair, which we have entered since the county initiated the competition in recognition of our region's long history and promising future in the art of olive oil.
To be eligible, all oils must be chemically certified as meeting extra virgin olive oil standards. The dates listed are the year of the awards, from oil picked the previous autumn:
2015: Yolo gold, best of class, best of show, best of Yolo County.
2014: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2013: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2012: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2011: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
2010: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2009: LA silver. Yolo gold.
2008: LA gold. Yolo silver.
2007: LA silver. Yolo gold, best of Yolo County.
2006: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2005: LA bronze. Yolo gold.
2004: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
Ready, Set, Pour
The 2014 harvest yielded a wonderfully fruity oil. The early ripening and mild weather allowed us to harvest olives with precision in October and November.
The final product is a blend of our Tuscan varieties, a flavor profile that is prized around the world and stands apart from most of the great California oil that is now being produced.
Most of the new plantings are of a Spanish or Greek variety that produce a nice light and fruity oil that is easy to mass produce -- but also lower in the heart-healthy polyphenols and the flavor complexity of the traditional Tuscan blend.
Let us know if you want to try gold.
FRB Year Four
For a fourth year, volunteers from Davis Community Church spent a Sunday in the orchard for a project sponsored by the Foods Resource Bank. The EVOO will be sold to congregants in December, and the proceeds will be added to the money raised by selling sweet corn grown by another Yolo farmer to support agricultural projects in developing countries. Raising hopes, one olive, one kernel at a time. For more information, see the Grower's Journal.
Hi, can we visit?
It is one of our favorite emails, especially among those that come from strangers. They see a bottle of Frate Sole in a winery or restaurant; maybe they find us online -- and they take us up on the offer to see where the sun meets the tree. We always learn as much as they do, about growing sugar beets in South Dakota or life in New York City. Every season offers something a little different, so if you plan to be in the neighborhood, feel free to drop us a line at Andrea@fratesole.net.