by Farm Shop team member Jesse Capitonio, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
On April 21st, Capay Valley Farm Shop held an orchard tour and tasting to give folks a firsthand experience what it takes to produce world-class olive oil. Twenty people from Yolo County and the Bay Area braved the heat to spend a day learning about the growth, care, and production of Arbequina, Picual, Coratina, Pendolino and other varietals. We were treated to walking tours of three different orchards, and an opportunity to sample a wonderful selection of local oils, followed by a delicious spread of goodies provided by Sandi and Ron Lutsko of Capay Oaks Farms.
We kicked off the day at 10 am at Grumpy Goats Farm, located just west of the town of Capay on Highway 16. Co-owner Stuart Littell led us on a walking tour who telling us about his ongoing efforts to build soil and increase beneficial insect habitat through natural biological practices. We literally got into the weeds searching for native fescues. They grow six different varieties of olive on their 8-acre farm winning gold medals.
From Grumpy Goats, we headed 15 miles up the highway to the town of Guinda, and the Séka Hills olive orchard. Seka Hills is owned by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the Native Americans with deep ancestral roots here in the Capay Valley. The Tribe has recently built a state-of-the-art olive mill in the town of Brooks, which has yet to open, and mill manager Joe Muller showed us around their young 80-acre orchard, describing production to pressing. According to Joe, with our Mediterranean climate, the Capay Valley is a perfect region for growing great olives, but until recently there have been few local choices for oil. He’s intent on reducing carbon footprint by making use of all parts of the milled olive—oil for food, pumice for fertilizer, and the wastewater rich in antioxidants for animals.
From Séka Hills, it was a short drive to our final stop, Capay Oaks Farm. Owned by Sandi and Ron Lutsko, their farm is a model of diversity with an emphasis on native plants. Capay Oaks employs organic farming techniques, incorporating an “ecological” approach to create self-sustaining systems of plants working cooperatively to promote soil development, decrease water usage, and provide habitats for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife. They produce a Spanish variety of olive called Arbequina, and were kind enough to host the tasting, and an impromptu picnic.
For the tasting, we were joined by Pamela Marvel of Grumpy Goats Farm who joined Sandi in a brief overview of tasting pointers and etiquette, and a description of the oils we sampled. We tried Arbequinas from Capay Oaks, Live Oak, and Séka Hills, a Coratina and a Picual from Grumpy Goats, and a blend from Vine Ray Farms. We were also given the opportunity to sample an Elderberry infused Balsamic Vinegar produced by Séka Hills.
All in all, the event was a splendid success. I saw smiling faces, heard a multitude of very intelligent questions and answers, and got a rare chance to share the beauty of the Capay Valley and some of it’s agricultural grandeur with a group of Farm Shoppers, both old and new! Kudos to those of you who took the tour and braved the heat; a big THANK YOU to Joe, Pamela, Stuart, Sandi, and Ron for such wonderful tours, and to those of you who couldn’t make it, we look forward to seeing you next time!