Olive Oil Harvest
There is nothing quite like the Tuscan countryside. From the stunning groves of ripe olive trees to the gorgeously intimate local trattoria, where handmade pasta drips with silky olive oil, a trip to this scenic region in central Italy is sure to tantalize all the senses. For Harry and La Verne Hutchison, countless trips to Italy over the past 10 years have given them inspiration and the dream to bring a little piece of Tuscany back home with them to Calabasas.
Tucked away in the Mulholland Scenic Corridor is Park South Estates of Calabasas where Harry and La Verne have lived for the past 18 years. With their children all grown, the passionate couple decided it was time for them to start a new journey. During their multiple trips across Italy, twice a year for the past 10 years, they have observed the Italians’ love for a certain green-tinged, golden tincture found in every kitchen in Italy. With every visit to Rome, Florence, and the Tuscan Countryside, this “liquid emerald gold” found its way into almost every Italian culinary creation they encountered. Soon, it was decided that the Hutchisons would produce the highest-quality extra virgin olive oil this side of the Mediterranean. And with that, Hutchison Olives was born.
With dreams of Tuscan olive groves dancing in their heads, the Hutchisons’ travel to Italy became equal parts business and pleasure. With each visit, Harry and La Verne sought out olive growers to talk to about the process of growing and milling olives. After much research, they realized that the land, soil, and climate of Calabasas were absolutely perfect to grow Tuscan olives.
With a resume of training courses and certifications from UC Davis in the care, cultivation, and milling of olives under their belts, Harry and La Verne sought out FGL of Santa Paula to do an analysis on their soil. Through water and soil analysis to determine suitability, the conditions in Calabasas proved to be ideal for growing Tuscan olive trees. Once they were given the greenlight, Harry and La Verne headed to McEvoy Ranch of Petaluma in April of 2011 to select their trees. Along with advice on pruning, harvesting, and other practices, the Hutchisons left McEvoy Ranch that day with 200 of their very own Tuscan olive trees.
Among the Pendolinos, Frantoios, and Leccinos, each of the 200 trees stood about three-feet tall. These trees, in pots for four to six years at McEvoy Ranch, were planted into the welcoming Calabasas soil. With the knowledge that olive trees need more water in the first five years, the Hutchisons developed a special irrigation management program that allowed them to control the amount of water going to their trees at any given time. FGL of Santa Paula continued to provide Hutchison Olive with frequent leaf analysis to determine the best type and frequency of fertilizer distribution for their olives. The olive trees today are 10-feet tall.
Harry and La Verne soon realized that they excelled in different roles in their business. La Verne found herself thriving in more operational tasks, such as managing the front office as well as the legal, marketing, and technology needs of the company. Harry found himself spending his time working the grove and taking care of the trees. During the two-week-long harvest, though, it’s all hands on deck.
By harvesting the olives early, in mid-September, the Hutchisons found that the purple and green young olives yielded more pungent oil. After the olives are de-leafed and washed, they are milled within six hours of harvest to produce their special blend of extra virgin olive oil. They purchased the Spremoliva C30 mill in 2016 from Mori-Tem, a family-owned manufacturing plant in Tavernelle, Italy. The oil is then stored in stainless steel, food-grade Fustis that are made in Italy.
At this point, Hutchison olive oil is still only in the hands of their “taste-tester” family and friends. They plan to one day produce a boutique oil of the highest quality. In fact, Harry and La Verne have the New York International Olive Oil Competition in their sights. With over 900 olive oil entries from 27 different countries, the Hutchisons hope to win gold someday.