ALFORD, Fla. (WMBB)–Agriculture has always played a huge role in Northwest Florida and some say olives may be the next big crop of the state.
Florida ranks number four in the U.S. for olive production and agricultural professionals say interest in the industry is growing rapidly.
“North Florida Olive Day was organized to bring information to potential and existing olive growers in north Florida,” said Michael O’Hara Garcia, President of Florida Olive Council.
Farmers met in Florida’s first ever olive grove, the ‘Green Gate Olive Grove’ in Alford to discuss the industry. Some say there’s a huge misconception behind the olive oil consumers are buying at local grocery stores. That’s why it is important to know where your olive oil is coming from.
“There’s an 85% chance that the oils that you’re buying out of your grocer aren’t certified as extra virgin olive oil. It’s unregulated by the FDA, it’s not inspected,” said Stuart Alfonso, the owner of Florida Olive Group.
Olive growers saying the benefits of the olive oil industry extend far beyond boosting the economy.
“I’m in the industry due to the health benefits of olive oil and we’re not getting the benefits out of our local grocers and the oils that were buying that are imported. The phenols, the polyphenols, the monosaturated fatty acids, within a high quality and the keyword here is fresh olive oil,” Alfonso said.
With the citrus industry declining, they say farmers should explore olives.
“We don’t think that olives will replace citrus, but we think olives will be a very very good augmentation. Olives are a significantly high-value crop,” O’Hara Garcia said.
While Wednesday’s field day was the first meeting of its kind, the attendance points to a bright future for the industry.
“Knowing that there’s this large interest of having a bigger industry of olives in Florida, I think we need another industry and just seeing this interest is exciting,” said Sally Gist, the owner of Green Gate Olive Grove.
To learn more about the olive industry as well as participate in tours, tastings, and events, visit www.greengateolivegrove.com.