Road Trip Part 1: CREA vs. COOC
This morning, Mauricio Castro, the olive oil operations manager for Familia Zuccardi picked me up from my hotel. Today was to be a road trip day. We were headed to Caña del Onda, about 2 hours North of Mendoza in an agricultural region called San Juan.
There are many olive producers around San Juan, including one group of Spanairds that recently planted 3000 acres of olive trees. Very impressive!
We have come here today to check on the progress and health of Familia Zuccardi's newly planted olive trees. Familia Zuccardi had just planted 208 acres in November of 2006. Roughly, the average age of these olive trees are 3 years old. Varieties planted here are Picual, Manzanilla, Arbequina, Frantoio, Coratina, and Hoji Blanca.
In case you didn't know, LMR first planted its Italian cultivars (Frantoio, Moriaolo, Leccino, Pendolino) in 1998. Our historic olive orchards that go into the Prato Lungo are from the 1870s.
Mauricio and I were met here by Julio, the olive orchard property manager and Luis Scaronne, who specializes in olive cultivation. Luis is a coordinator of a group in Argentina called CREA. CREA stands for Consorcio Regional de Experimentación Agrícola or Regional Consortium of Agricultural Experimentation.
This consortium of agricultural professionals has a total of 200 groups in circa 20 regions of Argentina. Together, they represent the entire agricultural economy in their respective groups.
Once every month, the CREA olive group meets to share and discuss disease control, pruning methods, harvesting techniques, nutrition, irrigation, and problems and solutions regarding the olive industry. You get the picture!
What´s amazing to realize is that this group of people, who are competing for a place in the market (domestic and global), come together once a month to discuss strategies on the overall improvement of their business. Incredible!
In California, we have an organization called the COOC, or California Olive Oil Council. The role of the COOC is to promote the growing of olives and the production of extra virgin olive oil in California. The COOC supports certified olive oil standards and provides grower, producer and consumer education.
Through their seal certification program, they help everyone from home chefs to restaurants find guaranteed extra virgin olive oils for their kitchen. Meetings and events, many of them open to the public, focus on a wide range of subjects, from marketing olive oil to managing their orchards.
The COOC meets annually to discuss many of these marketing related topics. The organization itself offers a great opportunity for all California Olive Oil producers to come together to taste, learn, share, and experience the values and virtues of California extra virgin olive oil.
While CREA is more technically and agriculturally based in their mission towards olives and olive oil production, the COOC is about building consumer awareness through marketing strategies in an effort to boost Californian extra virgin olive oil.
Both groups could learn a lot from each other.
Posted by Jason Moulton