The olive state?
Olives may soon join peaches and peanuts in the line-up of popular produce farmed in Georgia. Extension agents in South Georgia are experimenting with the crop as a complement to blueberries, which have proven prolific in Georgia soil. Farm machinery used for blueberries can also be used for olives, and their opposing harvest seasons—blueberries ripen in spring and summer, while olives are harvested in fall—provide farmers with an efficient year-round growing season. Olive trees were planted in 2008 in Pierce, Lanier, Clinch, Bacon and Appling counties. So far 200 total acres are planted. The trees should begin producing their first fruit in 2011, but a full crop isn’t expected until 2013. One acre of olive trees can produce six tons of olives, yielding 240 gallons of oil. Farmers can expect to get about $22 for a gallon of oil on the market. The U.S. imports 99 percent of its olive oil from other countries—76 million gallons in 2008—with consumption increasing each year.