If you love olive oil and you want to use only locally grown and produced oils, you are in luck. Shannon Casey and her husband John Copeland have a spot in Marina Square 699 Embarcadero #4 offering their Rancho Olivos Olive Oils.
Casey and Copeland moved to the Central Coast thinking they would go into production of wine grapes. After looking into that endeavor, they realized they couldn’t afford to do wine, but the climate is the same whether for grapes or olives, so instead in 2000 they bought three acres of land in Santa Ynez and planted about 400 small olive trees.
“People who like wine also appear to like olive oil,” commented Casey as she set about one recent morning opening the shop on the waterfront. It takes trees about seven or eight years to produce good olives, so it is a venture that requires patience. “We had a small amount of production in 2005,” she said, but it was closer to 2010 before we were really in business.”
In 2010 they also added four more acres to trees and they now have a little more than 800 producing trees. Along with that they manage a couple of other orchards where similar trees are grown.
Casey attended Olive School at the University of California, Davis in 1999 to learn all she could about the farming of olive trees. Even though much of the course covered the large farming acreage in the Central Valley, she was able to extrapolate the needed information to translate it into smaller acreage production. “Their models were based on Central Valley farms, “she explained, “usually in hundreds of acres and the needs for water based on flood irrigation and would not work for our farm.” Casey also said they didn’t discuss fertilizers and the need for nitrogen, but she and Copeland knew they had to add that to the soil. “We added horse manure to the ground because it had been planted to hay previously and then planted the area as trees not as hedgerows.”
Both Casey and Copeland love the taste of Tuscan style olive oils which have a middle note of flavor that is bitter and pungent, but they thought that might not appeal to everyone. So, they planted not only Italian varieties but mostly Arbequina, a Spanish varietal that is lighter and more fruity tasting. They also planted Mission olive trees. “Olives are not influenced by terroir like wine grapes are,” Casey explained, “because they have no sugars. Arbequina tastes the same wherever it is grown. The final flavor depends on when and how it is harvested.”
Casey benefited in the set-up of the tasting room by obtaining a Women’s Economic Ventures grant from Wells Fargo. This was money from disaster relief that was offered to businesses affected by the mudslides.
The tasting room and the farm stand in Santa Ynez offer Arbequina Spanish extra virgin olive oil and Italian varietal blends, one aged vinegar that is imported from Italy, a Balsamic vinegar that has no sugar in it, and flavored oils such as Jalapeno, Meyer Lemon, and Garlic. All the olive oils are Extra Virgin.
Casey has brought in a variety of other locally produced products including San Marcos Farms Wildflower Honey, Goldfinger Salve, Lavender lotion, spray and sachet, Stewart and Jasper Roasted Sea Salt Almonds, Jakes Mesquite Smoked Almonds, Kathy Kernels Karmelcorn, and Brittle Paso Almonds. There is a collection of vintage used cookbooks and a cookbook written by Casey entitled “Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil-Recipes from Shannon’s Kitchen,” which has a recipe for olive oil chocolate cake.
A drive to the farm at 2390 North Refugio Road could entice you to try a farm stay at their wood-framed guest house that contains an office and one bedroom with on-suite bath, patio shaded by olive trees, and a separate entrance. Cute kitties and furry dogs to keep you company too. Farm stays run $150 for weekdays and $175 for weekends and are ideal for two people. Right now, you can benefit while there by buying from their market garden that has peppers, apples, peaches and more.
The tasting room in Morro Bay is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and locals get a 10 percent discount. Look for them on Facebook and at ranchoolivos.com. Call 818-426-2512 or email [email protected]