We are proud to offer local Kitehawk Farm's 100% organic Extra Virgin Arbequina Olive Oil here at SLO Natural Foods Co-op. As our Featured Local Vendor from October 4 - 17, all bulk and bottled Kitehawk Olive Oil will be on sale:
Bulk Olive Oil, regular $11.99, sale 10.79 lb.
Bottled Olive Oil (250 ml), regular $13.99, sale $11.99
Bottled Olive Oil (375 ml), regular $17.99, sale $15.99
Kitehawk Farm is only a few minutes’ drive from the city of Atascadero but it seems a world apart. The 43 acres of rolling hills have beautiful stands of trees and stunning views. On my visit I saw a red-tailed hawk, a kestrel, and some California quail, as well as a cottontail rabbit darting into one of the olive groves. Water troughs for the wild ones are set out on the property and Wooly Blue Curls, the pungent native plant, is abundant and a favorite of the bees. Kitehawk Farm is named for the white-tailed kites that live in the area.
When Charles bought the property it had been overgrazed, so restoring the land was a priority. He planted several stands of trees more than 30 years ago and now they are tall and magnificent, providing cover and lookouts for raptors. He and his wife Denise dug swales to help the water percolate down into the soil instead of running off, and this has helped the native grasses to recover.
Denise and Charles planted two olive orchards on the property, the larger on the side of a hill and the smaller at the foot of another hill, so each has different soils and microclimates. Similar to water, cold air also ‘runs’ downhill, so the orchard at the foot of the hill is colder. Charles and Denise planted their high density orchards on 4’ centers nine years ago. They set every t-post and planted 3,000 saplings after work and on weekends and by the second year, they had a small harvest. The olives were pressed, bottled, and entered in competitions. Kitehawk did very well that first year and has won numerous awards since.
The trees are nearly all Arbequina olives, a Spanish variety known as the Goddess of Olive Oil for its delicate and fruity flavor. Ten percent of the trees are the more robust-flavored Koroneiki olives, a Greek variety that helps with pollination. The trees are irrigated weekly until shortly before harvest when water is withheld to intensify the flavor. The trees have a lot of fruit this year and should be ready to harvest by the beginning of November. Kitehawk olives are all picked by hand instead of using mechanical harvesters which are harder on the trees and the soil.
Once picked, the olives need to be pressed. Charles, who is an industrial engineer consultant, designed and built their Mill on Wheels (MOW) with the help of two of the partners. It is the largest mobile olive mill in the world. Olive growers in the county schedule their pressing and the mill comes to them when they need it, rather than having to transport their olives to a mill. MOW also operates outside of the county, traveling to other areas such as Bakersfield, Watsonville, and Carmel Valley during the harvest season.
When asked about any particular challenges with growing olives, Denise said that being a certified organic grower is the biggest one. The amount and specificity of the paperwork, the fees, the different cultural practices that are required, and the detailed physical inspections are a lot of additional work, and the regulations get stricter each year. It is a big commitment to become and stay certified as an organic grower, and Kitehawk is one of only two organic olive oil producers in SLO County.
We’re so happy to offer this delicious and organic extra virgin olive oil grown and pressed right here in SLO County. For more information, please visit their website at Kitehawk Farm and follow them on Facebook for their latest news!