Lillian olive farm has best harvest with 2019 crop.

By John Mullen

November 26, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Beth Clark hopes this year’s harvest on her Lillian olive farm is a sign of things to come.

“This year we had 134 gallons of oil and we had about five and a half tons of olives this year,” Clark said. “It was great.”

Olive oil pouring from the Lillian, Alabama, olive farm.The biggest year prior to 2019 was the 2018 crop which yielded about 150 16.9-ounce bottles of fresh Alabama-grown olive oil. This year’s crop produced 968 bottles and of those 650 sold in about three weeks.

“It was unexpected and kind of overwhelming but it’s been good,” Clark said.

She’s not sure exactly what led to the bountiful harvest but she’s kept meticulous notes on conditions and procedures and hopes to replicate them for another bumper crop next year.

“Maybe the good Lord had something to do with that,” Clark said. “They are probably maturing and they like hot dry summers. We had two varieties that started shriveling on the vine because of the heatwave so we had to harvest those real early. I think it’s a maturing growth that contributes to that. We’re going to find out exactly what happens next year which is why we record everything so we can kind of determine how this is all going to go as time goes on.”

Clark and her husband started to olive venture five seasons ago but this is just the fourth year they have harvested a crop. The farm has about seven acres of olive trees in what she believes is the only olive farm in Alabama.

Olives up close from an olive farm in Lillian, Alabama.“It’s challenging, rewarding and it is a lot of work and yet when those olives come and you can press them and have the freshest oil on the coast it’s pretty satisfying,” Clark said. “We do it all. We grow them, try to keep the trees healthy. We harvest them and we press them. We have a millhouse right on property and we bottle it as well right there.”

Some visitors to the farm ask about eating them but these olives are just for making oil for cooking and recipes.

“The birds don’t like them and I’m sure we have deer out there and they don’t like them at all,” Clark said. “You either have to press them or you have to brine them. They are very bitter.

“We’re behind a neighborhood and some of the neighborhood boys came over and said ‘can we have an olive.’ I said sure you can have an olive. Go ahead and taste it and see if you like it. It was so funny. No one is stealing our olives.”

Some visitors she directs down to row 23.

“I always tease people and tell to go out on row 23 and that is the row where we have olives with the pimentos in them,” she said. “We are not table olives. They are specifically for oil. Arbequina and Arbosana are Spanish and Koroneiki which is a Greek variety.”

Beth Clark said she and her husband Brooks started the olive farm to keep them busy as they grew a bit older and looked around at farms in Georgia.

“There are olive farms in Lakeland, Georgia,” she said. “We went over there because we wanted to do something interesting in our middle age so we went over there to check it out. We went to several of their olive meetings. We decided after a year we would try our hand at it.”

She’ll be using her oil as she goes through the holiday season and enjoys another of her passions.

“I’m a foodie,” she said. “I love to cook.”

She still has a few hundred bottles and they are $25 for the 16.9-ounce bottles. Orders are being taken online as well as by phone at 205-243-1880.

The successful harvest of 2019 will get the Clarks' olive venture closer to making a profit.

“We are close to covering our harvest cost which is good and a whole lot better than we did last year,” Clark said. “The harvest costs are our biggest expense. It’s very expensive to get them off the trees and to hire people once a year to do that for us.”