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Olive harvest early despite lower temperatures

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Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 4:27 pm, Sat Aug 27, 2011.

Olive growers in Lodi get to start harvesting earlier than usual this year, despite unusual rains and cooler temperatures.

Beginning in mid-October, local olive growers will be able to begin harvesting their crop of olives, a process that usually begins in early November, according to Brady Whitlow, president of Corto Olive in Lodi.

Whitlow said because a lot of the trees that produce olives in Lodi are still not entirely mature — less than five years old — they will not produce as many olives on average as trees that are full-grown.

A much colder winter as well as a cooler summer this year have also had farmers wondering where they might stand come harvest time.

And while lower temperatures may mean that it takes just a little longer for olives to ripen up, according to Whitlow, olive growers “got lucky.”

“Despite the strange weather, our growers are actually seeing a decent crop,” he said. “While it is not a huge crop by any means, there do not seem to be any problems with what has been produced.”

Crops that grow on trees, like olives, also tend to have “up and down” years, said Jay Van Rein, spokesperson for California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Van Rein said crops like olives go through cycles, and that within the past decade alone olives have hit very high and very low yield numbers.

The 2009 olive harvest yielded roughly 46,000 tons of olives. That equates to 31,000 acres of land harvested in California and roughly $32 million in crop revenue for farmers, Van Rein said.

And while some farmers have been worried about the unseasonal rains and cooler temperatures, Van Rein said others have welcomed it with open arms.

“What could be a fantastic year because of lots of water for one kind of crop could make it a disaster for another,” he said. “This year’s weather was not typical and that may be a big factor for a lot of crops.”

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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