UC Davis students and alumni who want to show their school pride can do more than wear a school T-shirt. They can eat UC Davis tomatoes, munch UC Davis bacon and dip their bread in UC Davis olive oil. For a while, they could even drink Aggie Lager.
Starting with olive oil in 2008, UC Davis has added to its line of retail products, sold under the marketing moniker “campus grown.” The items are mostly food-based, in keeping with the university’s focus on agricultural science. The goal is to boost recognition for the school’s programs and bring in a little money at the same time.
UC Davis is not the only campus that sells items it grows. California State University campuses in Fresno and Chico also sell produce, as do the two Cal Poly campuses.
Many of the UC Davis items are sold at the campus bookstore as well as the university’s retail store in downtown Davis. Besides olive oil, offerings include body-care products, cutting boards made from UC Davis trees, honey and sun-dried tomatoes.
While some products, such as meat from the school’s meat lab, have been sold for decades, olive oil was the first UC Davis-branded item to hit retail store shelves. The idea came from Sal Genito, who in the mid-2000s was UC Davis director of campus buildings and grounds. Genito wanted to do something about all of the fallen olives on streets and paths on campus, which created a slippery hazard for pedestrians and bicyclists. So he talked to a local bottler and processor, and then worked out a deal with UC Davis stores for sales of the oil.
“This was really a sustainability thing where you had all of these olives on the ground getting wasted,” said Tom Hinds, head of marketing for the university. “So rather than send them off to a landfill, they were collected and turned into olive oil.”
The success with olive oil raised enthusiasm among campus administrators to branch out into other offerings, Hinds said.
Today there are four varieties of olive oil sold under the UC Davis label. Its “Estate” label olive oil sells for $15 per 8-ounce bottle. A majority of the oil is made from the first organic orchards on campus, planted in 2008.
The other varieties come from a mix of olives grown on campus and those donated by olive growers in the Central Valley, as the center does not yet grow enough olives on its grounds to keep store shelves stocked, said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center, which conducts research and education to serve California’s olive industry.Sales of UC Davis student farm's olive oil products have brought $127,766,