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Field Day held to promote Texas Olive Oil Industry

Story by Mario A. Morales, Resource Conservation & Development Coordinator

On September 14th and 15th, 2010 the Rio Grande-Nueces Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. (Rio Grande-Nueces RC&D) hosted an Olive Oil Field Day in conjunction with the Texas Olive Ranch (Jim Henry Farms), the Texas Olive Oil Council, the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas Agri-Life Cooperative Extension Service, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Middle Rio Grande Development Council, and the Texas/Mexico Border Coalition, Inc. The event was a two-day festival celebrating the harvest of olives for oil.

Attendees watched as the olives from the Jim Henry Farm were harvested and transported to the "press house." Nearly 300 persons were able to walk throughout the farm and see how the olive trees were planted and spaced. Visitors were treated to informative presentations and were given the opportunity to see and purchase products made from Texas Olive Oil Farms. They were also able to see the initial processing of this year's olive harvest.

The Jim Henry Farm is located just north of Asherton, Texas. He currently has about 70 acres planted to olive trees. Mr. Henry will be expanding the size of his orchard in the very near future. The harvesting process was demonstrated and the participants were welcome to jump onto the wagon that collected the freshly harvested olives for oil. During the harvesting demonstration Mr. Henry and some of his staff answered questions and pointed out interesting points about growing olives in Texas.

The informative presentations were conducted by experts in their fields and the presenters were: Mr. Nasir Malik, USDA-Agricultural Research Service; Dr. Thayne Montague, Department of Plant Science, Texas Tech University; Mr. Jon Whan, USDA-NRCS; and Commissioner Todd Staples. Dr. Malik spoke about Olive tree varieties and some of the research that had been conducted with regards to "Olive Oil Production in Texas." Dr. Montague spoke about specific growing conditions for olive production and some of the specific research that is being conducted on the Jim Henry Farms. Mr. Whan spoke about "Micro irrigation and its application to olive orchards." Commissioner Staples arrived to the speaker's tent on the olive harvester and spoke about the economic impact that Texas Olive Oil Production has had, and could have, for Texas agriculture. He also spoke about some of the activities that the Texas Department of Agriculture was conducting to encourage and help Texas olive oil producers. Ms. Barbara Serna, USDA Farm Services Agency, discussed the USDA Agricultural Loan Programs that she administers. On the second day, there was a "How to Start Your Own Business" presentation by the Small Business Development Center, as well as olive oil soap making demonstrations.

The Texas Olive Ranch had an exhibit featuring a variety of olive oils and products made from Texas olive oil and hosted a complementary oil tasting. Olive oil soaps, body lotions, balms, and other pampering products were offered for sale by Kat Nip, Inc. The Texas Department of Agriculture also exhibited literature and publications about olive production and the uses for olive oil and herbs, among other things.

There was a great amount of enthusiasm for the future of the Texas Olive Oil industry. Plans are already underway for next year's event. For more information, please contact Leigh Ann Sanderlin or Mario A. Morales at 830-279-0164.

The harvester and collection bins.

Commissioner Staples speaking to the crowd.
The harvester and collection bins. Commissioner Staples speaking to the crowd.