110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Feb 17, 2014 - 2:05:05pm
As freezing weather and citrus greening cause citrus groves in West Volusia to shrink, another crop is moving to the forefront: olives. Experiments in growing the crop locally are proving fruitful.
For people interested in exploring the oily fruit’s possibilities, the first-ever "Florida Olive Forum" will offer information and advice 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Volusia County Agricultural Center. The forum will take place in the auditorium at the Ag Center, which is next to the Volusia County Fairgrounds at 3100 E. New York Ave. in DeLand.
Dana Venrick, owner and president of Quality Green Specialists in DeLand, is a sponsor and organizer of the event. He and people he has advised are having success growing olive trees, he said.
Venrick is well-known to many in West Volusia; he retired in 2010 from his job as a Volusia County extension agent specializing in commercial horticulture. While working as a county extension agent, Venrick heard of a Marion County resident who was successful in growing olives, and, intrigued, Venrick went to visit the grove. He was favorably impressed.
Venrick planted a couple of olive trees on the west side of the Agricultural Center in 2005. The trees are still there, and healthy, as is one he planted at his house.
After Venrick retired and opened Quality Green Specialists, customer Allen Green in Port Orange decided to replace some orange trees with olive trees, taking Venrick's advice. Green’s trees, planted 2008-09, were bearing fruit in the fall of 2010.
"The trees were full of olives," Venrick said. They are still doing well.
Venrick had always been told Florida was too humid for olives. However, they are typically grown around the Mediterranean Sea, where the air is humid, with hot summers and cool winters, he said. Olive trees do like "dry feet" — not too much water on the roots.
Unlike orange trees, olive trees can survive hard freezes.
Olive trees are also pretty low maintenance. Planting and caring for them with proper and timely pruning, fertilization, soil-acidity level and water are all important, however. The Florida Olive Forum will offer advice on all this.
Citrus is still the No. 1 crop in Florida, but citrus-greening disease has caused a drop in production. An alternative crop is attractive to growers, and Venrick believes olives are the “citrus” of the near future.
While there are currently no facilities to press olives for their oil in Florida, that will come as production increases, he said. Meanwhile, Georgia Olive Tree Nursery in Lakeland, Ga., has an olive press with the capacity to press 2 tons of olives per hour. And Florida's olive crop is ready in August, a couple of weeks ahead of South Georgia’s.
How much oil does a ton of olives produce? Forty gallons, Venrick said.
“Florida is in a sweet spot," he said. Oil from the southeastern United States is in great demand, and Florida's crop will come in first.
With its health benefits, olive-oil consumption is up, and even a tea made from olive leaves is being touted for health benefits, Venrick said. Studies show that extract from the leaves, with high amounts of antioxidants, may help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.
The Florida Olive Forum, sponsored by Quality Green Specialists, AAA South Travel Club and The West Volusia Beacon, is free. To register, call Venrick at 386-837-3878, or call Allen Day, co-owner of Quality Green Specialists, at 386-747-0567.
The forum will include:
• 9:30 a.m. — Welcome by Allen Day
• 9:45 a.m. — "Growing Olives in Florida" by Dana Venrick
• 10:15 a.m. — Break, with samples of olives, olive tea and olive treats
• 10:30 a.m. — "Growing and Pressing Olives in South Georgia," by Scott Courson of Georgia Olive Tree Nursery
• 11 a.m. — "Fabulous Olive Tour to Spain in 2014," by Frederic Penaranda, AAA travel counselor
• 11:30 a.m. — "Answers to Your Questions," by the olive panel: olive growers Robin Vick in Ocala and Jim Tschida in Haines City, along with Courson and Venrick
• Noon — Drawings for Arbequina olive trees, gift certificates and prizes
• 12:15 p.m. — Lunch on your own in Downtown DeLand
• 1:30 p.m. — An olive-pruning demonstration at Quality Green Specialists at 1639 N. Spring Garden Ave. in DeLand
• 2:30 p.m. — Adjourn
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