Frequently Asked Questions

About the Caltech Olive Oil
How much oil will be produced?
How can I buy some olives/olive oil?
Why is the olive oil so expensive?
Where does the olive oil money go?
How long will Caltech Olive Oil keep?
Why is my Caltech Olive Oil cloudy?

About Participation & Supporting the Olive Harvest
Who can participate?
Do I have to sign a waiver?
How will the olives be picked?

About Our Trees
How many olive trees are on the Caltech campus?
What are those plastic bottles I've seen hanging in the olive trees?
How is the crop looking this year?
Why does the crop vary from year to year?

Questions w/ Answers

How much oil will be produced?
We hope for about 100 gallons each year, however it will vary from 50 to 150 gallons depending on the year.

How can I buy some olives/oil?
Olive oil will be sold through the Caltech Bookstore approximately one month after the event. Sign up to the olive harvest mailing list  to receive notifications about olive oil sales. We unfortunately cannot sell unprocessed olives. Olives begin to rot as soon as they are picked, and we do not have the capability to overnight ship olives on demand.

Why is the olive oil so expensive?
To be honest, you are getting a pretty good price on the olive oil. Olive orchards are laid out in neat, evenly spaced rows and their trees are kept at roughly 20 ft tall. Our trees are spread all over campus and many are 40 or 50 ft tall, making their maintenance much more costly. Furthermore, our trees are maintained organically rather than with chemical pesticides, which also adds to our cost. All this, coupled with the fact that the surrounding event (with the dinner, exhibits, volunteer t-shirts, advertising, etc.) is not cheap, makes for some pretty expensive olive oil. If we divided the whole cost of the olive harvest festival by the number of bottles produced and sold them at that price, you would be paying close to three times what the current price is.

Where does the olive oil money go?
The money from olive oil sales goes towards campus student activities. These activities include the Olive Harvest and similar campus events, but the exact use of the money is decided by Caltech's VP of Business & Finance, Dean Currie.

How long will the Caltech oil keep?
If kept cool, such as in a wine cellar or equivalent environment, the oil will keep for many years. However, oil does not get better with age, so we recommend you consume the oil within its first year.

Why is my Caltech olive oil cloudy?
Olive oil is cloudy for two reasons. Firstly, olive oil naturally is a little bit cloudy. The olive oil you see at the grocery store is clear because it has undergone rigorous filtration procedures. Caltech olive oil did not undergo this additional filtration. Eventually the tiny particles will settle out of the oil and it will become clear, but this should not affect the taste of the oil at all. Olive oil can also become cloudy because it is cold. Olive oil does not need to be refrigerated, and will in fact become cloudy if it is. This does not affect the tast of the oil; just leave the oil at room temperature and it will eventually return to its original appearance.

Who can participate?
Anyone with a willingness to contribute to the Caltech community is welcome to participate.

Do I have to sign a waiver?
No.

How will the olives be picked?
Most harvesters will collect olives by hand into 5-gallon plastic buckets using ladders. For lower reaching trees, harvesters can use rakes to drop olives onto tarps spread beneath trees or some trees can be picked by hand. All picked olives will be placed into large centrally-located bins along Olive Walk which will be forklifted into trucks and transported to the pressing and bottling facility.

How many olive trees are there on the Caltech campus?
There are 130 olive trees on campus, some of which are shown on this map: MarkedTrees.pdf

What are those plastic bottles I've seen hanging in the olive trees?
Those are for pest control. They contain Torula yeast tablets in water, which attracts flies who enter the bottles and they are unable to get out again. The fruit fly is the biggest threat to Caltech's olive production. The adult flies will climb inside the olives to lay their eggs, causing the fruit not to develop properly and causing olives to rot even before they have ripened. Our first year the olives where close to 100% fly infested, meaning that every olive had indications of previous fruit fly inhabitations. Since then, Caltech grounds has diligently sprayed weekly with Spinosad GF120 , an organic fly repellant, and we have seen a significant decrease in fly activity.

How is the crop this year?
The trees are full of olives ready to be picked!

Why does the crop vary from year to year?
Olive trees undergo cyclic growth. This means that some years the crop is very plentiful and in other years production may be decreased by more than half. It will take several more harvests to understand the cycle of Caltech's trees, but eventually we will be able to more accurately predict how big the crop will be in a given year. Furthermore, fruitfly populations vary from year to year. For example, there was a statewide fruitfly epidemic during 2008 which affected not only the quality of our olives, but all Californian olives. No one can really predict when anomalies like this will happen.

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