Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Olives are the latest South Georgia Crop.

VALDOSTA — South Georgia’s known for a variety of things — education, entertainment, and for Valdosta being crowned TitleTown. Now, the region can add a new item to it’s repertoire: olives.

Ronnie Courson, brothers Jason and Sam Shaw, and Kevin Shaw have collaborated in purchasing land to develop their own Olive Farm in Lanier County.

“Well, the idea to begin an olive farm came from the fact that farmers are looking for other things to farm,” said Jason Shaw. “The blueberry market is saturated and there’s currently a surplus. So, now we’re forced to look for other things to grow. These olive farms initially started out in other parts of the world. Research has shown that there is a huge consumption of olive oil. Numbers reveal that within the next five years, the world is expected to use over 80 million pounds of olive oil, but there’s only 600,000 being produced in the U.S.”

“We hope to plant on more acres and encourage other farmers to do the same,” said Sam Shaw. “We want to press our own olives and bottle the oil to sell worldwide, starting and producing oil from the bottom up.”

Owners suggest that they are not only providing a service to the Valdosta area but to the state of Georgia.

“We plan on expanding to a facility where oils can be produced, which will produce several benefits,” said Jason Shaw. “We can get sales tax generated which will be good for the economy and by opening up a facility, we can increase the number of jobs in South Georgia.”

The planting process began in April and owners expect to undergo full production in its fifth rolling year. By September 2011, oil is expected to be produced and ready to sell.

Sam Shaw provides that there are currently six olive farmers in Lanier with a total of 40 acres of land. The biggest challenges for producing quality product is the harsh weather of South Georgia.

The land will be maintained by the owners. The Georgia Department of Agriculture and the local county extension services’ agent have been working with owners.

For the last 10 years, the olive market has been prevalent within California. Considering olives aren’t cold resistant and can’t be kept below 14 degrees, South Georgia is ideal for harvesting.

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