What is in this article?:
- About 200 acres of olives grown for olive oil are planted In California’s Imperial County and Arizona’s Yuma County.
- About 160 of the acres are planted at the Beach Line Citrus farm in Niland, Calif.
- Olives require about half of the water than many other major crops in the desert environment.
The bird’s eye view from the century-old-plus Beach Line Citrus farm in Niland in California’s Imperial County is a commanding vision of the azure waters in the Salton Sea several miles to the West and the towering Chocolate Mountains to the East.
Closer to the ground, a crop relatively new to this area is sinking its roots deeper into the low-desert landscape – super high density (SHD) plantings of olives grown for milling into extra virgin olive oil.
Beach Line Citrus LLC is among about a dozen entrepreneurial growers in Imperial County and neighboring Yuma County, Ariz., adding olives to their crop pedigree, or with plantings on the drawing boards.
The conventionally-grown commercial olive varieties at Beach Line Citrus include the Spanish varieties Arbequina and Arbosana, and the Greek Koroneiki olive.
In addition to olives, Beach Line Citrus grows about 2,000 acres of permanent crops, mostly desert lemons, along with figs, pomegranates, and other types of citrus.
The father-and-son team of Don Barioni Sr. and Doni Jr. (fifth-and-fourth-generation farmers respectively) and their partners – Bob Hull, Thom Curry, and others – has about 160 acres of olives.
The plantings include: a 40-acre trial planted five years ago with dozens of varieties; a 40-acre commercial parcel planted two years ago; and an 80-acre commercial block planted last year.
The average plant spacing for the orchards is 13-by-7 feet.
Organically-grown olives are planned in the future.
“We’re very excited about olives since olive oil is a product in high demand with consumers right now,” said Doni at his busy farm office in mid July.
The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia. Olive cultivation dates back about 7,000 years ago.
Barioni said, “If we can mechanically prune and harvest olives then this industry has great potential in the desert.”