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Texas Olive Growers Stake Their Claim

Aug. 12, 2015
Wendy Logan

Recent News

No one could ever accuse a Texan of think­ing small, so per­haps it’s no sur­prise to find that the web­site of the Texas Olive Growers Association and Council (TOGAC) notes the fol­low­ing mis­sion state­ment: We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion and knowl­edge, ulti­mately mak­ing Texas the nation’s leader in the growth of olive farm­ing and olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

The Longhorn state has a long way to go to over­come California as America’s top dog in the olive and olive oil trade, but TOGAC pres­i­dent John Gambini was firmly opti­mistic. There are a lot of great things going on in the indus­try here,” he said when reached by phone fol­low­ing the organization’s quar­terly meet­ing on July 25. New farm­ers are com­ing on board fast and those in the busi­ness are start­ing to expand their orchards. We expect the indus­try over the next two years will almost dou­ble as far as trees planted, with a lot more fruit pro­duc­tion.”
See Also:Texas Olive Oil Producers Beating the Odds
Gambini is walk­ing the walk as head of his fam­ily-owned Texas Hill Country Olive Company and his goals for his award-win­ning prod­uct and the entirety of the state’s new cash crop are ambi­tious. The TOGAC was estab­lished to pro­vide infor­ma­tion to Texas farm­ers so they can learn how to build the indus­try,” he said. This includes exam­in­ing which cul­ti­vars are likely to fare best in the Texas cli­mate, what pit­falls to be aware of (cot­ton root rot and how to address it was pri­mary at the meet­ing), and how to han­dle addi­tional prob­lems that arise.

Sue Langstaff of Applied Sensory, LLC, is head of one of the few sen­sory pan­els rec­og­nized by the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS). Her com­pany tests and tastes olive oils to deter­mine, among other chem­i­cal speci­ficity, whether they can be labeled as extra vir­gin,” and she was among the speak­ers at the meet­ing. In her pre­sen­ta­tion, she offered an intro­duc­tion to the pro­cess­ing and eval­u­a­tion of olive oils, on how to spot defects, and on how to under­stand the grad­ing sys­tem. They were thirsty for knowl­edge,” she said of the eager and com­mit­ted grow­ers and pro­duc­ers.

Langstaff com­mended the group for its goals. Some mem­bers brought their (prod­uct) to the meet­ing, so we tasted and found a pretty good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Texas olive oils. They were mostly defect-free so that’s a good thing from the get-go.”

A more press­ing a con­cern for the fledg­ling Texas indus­try today, accord­ing to Langstaff, is its cur­rent label­ing prac­tices. The real­ity is, they don’t yet have enough oil being pro­duced, so they’re blend­ing their (Texas-made) prod­uct with olive oils from California, for exam­ple, and some peo­ple are (upset) because they feel it’s being passed off as strictly from Texas.”


Langstaff asserts that her con­cern isn’t about the blends them­selves. Sometimes blends are bet­ter,” she said. There can be that syn­ergy of one plus one equals three. And in Texas, they’re on their way to pro­duc­ing 100 per­cent Texas-milled prod­uct but they aren’t there yet. It’s a grow­ing indus­try.”

But you know, you want to make sure for now that if they’re sell­ing their prod­uct as 100 per­cent Texan, then that’s what it should be.”

Gambini flips that script. He is more con­cerned with qual­ity, he said, in keep­ing American oils American-made, and with the blends that include inter­na­tional prod­uct.

The taste tests we did found the imported super­mar­ket brands to be almost all ran­cid. It’s ridicu­lous what they sell as extra vir­gin. And the prices at which they are sell­ing their oils are out­ra­geously low. They’re low-balling to keep out American pro­duc­ers. There should be label­ing that states that the oil is American made, whether it be from Texas, California, Georgia, or wher­ever.”


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