We’ll visit Georgia Olive Farms on our Friday Farm Tour at South Georgia Growing Local 2014.
Richard Villadoniga wrote for StAugustine.com 18 July 2012, Liguid gold rush,
There’s a new gold rush taking place in Georgia, and it’s not up in the mountains near Dahlonega as first happened back in 1828. This time around, people are buzzing with excitement over a liquid gold produced in Southern Georgia: extra virgin olive oil. You read that correctly — olive oil from Georgia. What was once an exclusively Mediterranean product is now being crafted with olives grown in Southern Georgia, and to a smaller extent, North Florida.
Georgia Olive Farms, a cooperative of about 10 regional olive growers, is based in Lakeland, Georgia, near Valdosta.
Jason Shaw, one of the company’s founders, comes from a multi-generational family of farmers, but like most farming families today, the need to diversify is a must. (In addition to his busy schedule handling marketing for the company, he sells insurance and is a state legislator.) Shaw spent a semester of college studying in Italy and upon tasting such wonderfully flavorful olive oil there, he came back determined to plant olives on the family farm in Georgia. What started as an agricultural experiment just three years ago has flourished into a thriving business covering about 200 acres and a production level of 5 tons of olive oil being pressed last year.
Nancy Flagg wrote for Olive Oil Times 31 October 2012, Origins of Georgia’s Newborn Olive Oil Industry,
In 2000, Georgia was experiencing a severe drought. The Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee was studying aquifer water sources and went on a field trip to southwest Georgia farmlands. Committee member Mary Squires met growers who attributed low crop yields not only to the drought but also to climate change.
When one farmer remarked that they needed to find a crop resistant to climate change, Squires’ research gene was activated. As a former warfare specialist in the Georgia Army National Guard, she had conducted many groundwater, air, temperature and soil studies. She “dusted off” her old research, plotted Georgia’s climate, soil and water data and started looking for crops that grow under those conditions.