Sunday, April 26, 2009

Springtime Tour Of McEvoy Ranch

Last Saturday, the missus and I took advantage of the season's first truly warm and sunny day, and spent part of the afternoon touring the grounds of McEvoy Ranch, a small, organic olive oil producer in northern Marin County.  The tour was organized by the good folks at Marin Organics, a community association dedicated to promoting the organic and sustainable small farms of Marin County.

Nestled in the green, windswept hills just outside of Petaluma, McEvoy Ranch is one of California's first olive oil producers.  Founded in 1995 by Nan McEvoy, granddaughter of Michael De Young, the founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, McEvoy ranch was originally meant to be a retreat for Nan's family and a place for her grandchildren to enjoy the outdoors.  She eventually decided to plant some olive trees, and not being able to do anything on a small scale, created McEvoy Ranch which is now home to 18,000 Italian olive trees.  Soon, the ranch will be truly self-sufficient, with the installation of a windmill to generate all of the necessary energy for the operation of the farm.

The tour took us around the estate, from the irrigation ponds through the orchards, to the chicken palace, and up the sun-soaked hillside where they have begun planting grapevines in between rows of olive trees.  The tour finished with a stop in the small processing facility, crowded with sleek Italian machinery, and finally into the tasting room where we sampled last years batch of olive oil.  The pure, light green extra virgin olive oil produced at McEvoy Ranch is sweet and grassy, with a soft, peppery bite at the end.  

Throughout the tour, we learned about the labor-intensive processes that go into growing and harvesting the olives, the difficulties they face as an organic farm in preventing pests and diseases, and of course the meticulous care and attention necessary to press and bottle the precious olive oil. 

It was a beautiful day spent getting back to nature and learning how one of our most beloved ingredients finds its way from the farm to our tables.  Everyone on the tour took home a jar of delicious McEvoy olives, and most took advantage of the small but well appointed store and organic herb garden.  A 375ml bottle of McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil will cost you about $20, so this isn't your every day cooking oil.  Use it to dress salads or just drizzle over some toasted bread.  And for the truly ambitious, McEvoy Ranch even sells potted olive trees for you to take home and plant in your own garden.

McEvoy Ranch products can be purchased online or at their store at the San Francisco Ferry Building.  The ranch is not open to the public, but they do offer tours like the one we took periodically throughout the year.  Details can be found at the McEvoy Ranch website.

Marin Organics offers tours and special events of Marin County's agrarian bounty to its members and the general public alike.  For more info, to sign up for their  newsletter or become a member, visit the Marin Organics website.