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.First-ever 'Florida Olive Forum' comes to DeLand Saturday, Feb. 22,