Where my Olive Oil comes from, and a discount for you.

Nestled in the grassy hills of northern California sits a sprawling 2,000 acre ranch.  For several years, I’ve purchased their olives, mandarins and their extraordinary olive oil. It’s something I value – knowing our growers and sourcing as close to home as possible (and for olive oil and citrus, California is as close as it gets for us, though I do still have a place in my heart for a special good Greek olive oil, dark chocolate, good wine, obscure and wild-crafted herbs and other occasional, long-traveled treats).

I’d wanted to visit their ranch for a while – and while we make relatively frequent trips to California (and on those long road trips these tips always come in handy), making the trip up there never quite worked out – that is, until recently.  I’ve been working on my upcoming cookbook – taking photographs of sustainable farms across the country – and on our way to the Weston A Price Foundation annual conference, we stopped by Chaffin for a few days to stay at the farm with a few other friends, bloggers, chefs within traditional foods community.

olive trees and mandarins

My Visit to the Ranch

When we first arrived, we drove down a gravel road into what I later learned to be the largest old growth olive orchard in California.  We pulled up, arrived at our tent – a small soft-sided cabin, really, with wood floors, running water, a wood-burning stove on which we boiled water for tea every morning, composting toilet and enough beds and down comforters to sleep six comfortably.  They named each tent for a variety of fruit grown in the orchard: Calimyrna for figs, Blenheim for apricots.

We settled in immediately, relieved to be free from the long hours on the road and refreshed by the sweet soft air beneath the Mission olive trees.

Chaffin’s History (and future)

Chaffin is unique in that their sprawling 2,000 acre ranch holds the largest old-growth olive trees in North America and it was further designed in the 1930s to produce fruit year-round like satsumas, pomegranates, grapefruit, persimmons and stone fruit – enabling farm workers to live and work every week of the year so that, unlike migrant workers, they could send their children to school, save money and become part of a community.  And, in this way, Chaffin has been a refuge of socially responsible farming from the very beginning.

More recently, however, Chaffin has evolved.  That is, following the Joel Salatin model, Chaffin has diversified their ranch to include livestock: beef cattle, chickens for eggs and meat, goats and even sheep for wool.  This diversification – the inclusion of animals on the farm as an integral part of farming – has enabled them not only to diversify income streams, but also to help manage the farm as well: hens provide bug control and fertilizer, eat fallen fruit so it doesn’t attract pests, sheep and goats and cattle provide weed control in the orchards.  You see, the animals need the land and, more importantly, the land needs the animals. Significantly, this model of agriculture utilizes 85% less fossil fuel inputs according to Chaffin Farms’ Chris Kerston. Its a win-win model of farming.

Because of mindful planting of the orchards – with trees spaced far apart instead of close together, diversification of crops and inclusion of animals – Chaffin produces some of the best olive oil and fruit in the U.S., all of which is sold directly to the consumer instead of to middlemen.

wool sheep at chaffin

Olive Oil Futures (and bulk discounting)

Even if you didn’t win the recent giveaway (congratulations Claire!), you might consider pre-ordering your olive oil.  Using a model similar to the classic CSA, Chaffin offers their olive oil at a steep discount for those purchasing in advance – 2 gallons of olive oil including shipping for $120.

Since their olive oil consistently sells out, it’s wise to preorder as early as you can and have it shipped to you as soon as pressing is complete – usually some time in January.  For large purchases or for groups working together, Chaffin will ship 10 gallons of oil to you for $50 per gallon which is a discount of about $22 per gallon over their regular rate.  For buying clubs, Weston A Price Foundation chapters and like-minded neighbors and friends, it’s an incredible value.

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What people are saying

  1. JMR says

    Lovely pictures! I really enjoyed the Chaffin Family Orchards seminar at the WAPF conference a few days ago, but I was hesitant to spend $120 on olive oil. I finally decided to splurge and ordered 2 gallons of future olive oil. I suppose that comes out to only $3.75 per cup, and I usually spend more than that on olive oil. I’m looking forward to making mayo out of it.

  2. Karen says

    This olive oil looks delicious and I thoroughly approve of local (as possible) buying of well-sourced, small family farm olive oil like this. Sadly I live in London but my friend Orietta, ships beautiful organic oil from her family farm in Italy and does similar bulk orders. I don’t normally promote things in any way but it is the oil I use and think is is delicious, healthy and similarly good value to the Chaffin Farm oil (£100 for 10 litres) so if anyone Europe/UK based is interested her website is http://www.oliodivino.it/index.php
    Very much appreciating your website and meal plans at the moment Jenny, and am constantly amazed at how you keep it all up with the travelling!

  3. Eric says

    How does this compare to California Olive Ranch? I ask because I can get that from my local grocery for about $32/gallon in 500mL bottles.

    • says

      COR is a neighbor of ours and the way they farm is called Super High Density Olive Oil Production. It’s extremely mechanized and because that this style of farming usually plants more trees per acre than the soil can naturally support. High density olive oil production tends to use a lot more chemicals than old growth standard density producers. The chemicals are typically oil soluble chemicals which should be of greater concern with a product like olive oil. Our farm grows our orchards to organic standards, though we’re not certified (we’re working on that and our oil should be certified next year once we get the paperwork submitted). Our product costs a little more because it’s all still hand harvested, but we think it’s important to employ people rather than tractors and to maintain this cultural heritage of olive picking. We think you’ll notice our commitment to quality when you try our olive oil.
      Here’s a video of Super High Density Farming – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0glTpuK8SY

  4. Susan says

    Hi Jenny!
    $120 would be a big hit to us financially and I really don’t have anyone to split it with. I’m wondering how long two gallons would last before it spoiled -if it does spoil. One would be opened immediately for use, and the other would sit for a year I anticipate before I needed it. I really don’t go through it that fast although maybe I would if tasted yummy. I slowed my consumption down quite a bit when I read most olive oils aren’t pure.

    I can adjust the budget to squeeze the purchase in, I just want to be sure it will be a “lasting” value!!

    • Carla Aoyagi says

      (Note: I live in Chico, and I know the owners of Chaffin)
      I’ve had a gallon of Chaffin olive oil (medium, i believe) on my shelf (in a dark, cool environment) for over 3 years (maybe close to 4 years!)- I just don’t use it that often; it still tastes (and smells) really good. I wouldn’t suggest not using it like I, but it seems to keep really well.

    • jenny says

      I order 2 gallons/year and it lasts us about 9 – 10 months, so I also purchase a quart or two of a spicy super-fresh Greek olive oil as well to mix up the flavors.

  5. Jet says

    I have hesitated to buy such a large amount of olive oil at one time because I understand you don’t have to refrigerate it and I worry about it going rancid in the pantry after weeks and maybe months of storage.

    • Jen says

      We had our Chaffin Family olive oil on the shelf for over 18 months and it was just as wonderful the 18th month as it was the first month when we opened it. I bet it would actually last much longer. Because of that we bought 4 gallons just to be sure we have PLENTY for a very long time. I missed out last year because I didn’t order in time.

  6. Linda says

    Is the Chaffin olive oil organic? I didn’t see where it said, must not be. What are their practices concerning pesticides and fertilizers?

  7. Patricia says

    Chaffin says their oils last for 18 months and I have found that to be true; even lasts longer. The farm is organic and I believe it is certified. At any rate, go on to their web site and read about their farming practices; you will see that between the animals and the fruit trees they don’t even need to import manure, use beneficial insects or anything. Everything is in balance. We are so lucky that Chaffin comes to the Nevada City Organic Farmers’ Market every Saturday for six months out of the year.

    • says

      Thanks Patricia,
      Yes many people have told us it lasts longer than 18 months stored in a cool dark place like a pantry. Don’t forget this week is the last week of the Nevada City Farmers Market for the season. See you there…

  8. Sharon Parham says

    I am lucky enough to know Carol and her family who own Chaffin Family Orchards. I don’t know anyone more knowledgable about how to grow our food and committed to making sure our food is of the highest quality. They are amazing Weston A. Price leaders and always up on the latest and best for their family and ours! I love their olive oil and everything else they produce. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to purchase anything from them. I feel blessed to have them right in our “backyard” so to speak up here in Northern California.

  9. says

    I consider Chaffin to have the best, most organic, most delicious olive oil in all the world. It comes from trees growing on land that has never been sprayed or fertilized with chemicals, grown on rich volcanic soil with a very high Brix rating.
    It works perfectly in my recipes, is the best possible oil you can use for marinating and salad dressings, and is one hundred percent olive oil, without a doubt.
    We have been buying two gallons a year for several years, and the oil is always good, even when used fourteen months after being purchased. This is a chance to get a true heirloom super food. Hope this helps.

    • says

      If you want to infuse the olive oil with a particular flavor like garlic or jalepeno, just put whatever herbs, spices, vegetables, or other aromatics in the oil and let it sit for a week or two before use. The flavor will get stronger then longer it sits. It’s way cheaper and easier than buying the infused oils in the store.

      • Sel says

        Thx Chris, i have tried this, and i did get mold in the mix. I found out
        later that it is a no no to mix fresh herbs with OO….so i tried to cook the
        herbs into the oil, once again more trouble…..also, i did sanitize the glass
        container. At this point i am at a loss for this…that is the whys of my question.
        Hopefully someone out there has done this with success….to add more to
        the whole thing, i did place my OO in the fridge for the preservation…it does
        work, though the oil comes out thick and solid. Any ideas other then what you
        have recommended? Jalapeno OO is the most wonderful flavor one can use
        on anything, the cost of this is high. Sel

        • Crystalline Ruby Muse says

          I infuse fresh herbs in olive oil to make medicinal oils for six weeks with no problems. When infusing, you need to make sure that your jar is completely filled to the top with oil, so that there is no air. For several days, air bubbles will be rising to the top, so you have to press the herbs down & add more oil daily (also, put the jar in a bowl, as it will leak). Keep in a cool, dark place, as light will diminish nutrients & medicinal value. If any mold gathers on top, you can spoon off & discard any plant matter if it floated atop the oil & accrued mold.

          After you strain out the plant matter, store in a dark place or amber bottle. You can add vitamin E oil to help prevent spoilage.

  10. says

    I ordered some from your link as soon as I read this yesterday. I’ve been wanting to give this olive oil a try for quite some time now but just hadn’t done it yet. Looking forward to the delivery!

  11. Christian Rene Friborg says

    I would definitely much rather use olive oil that I know where it came from than the bottled ones in the groceries. I wish there was a place I could get mine from!

  12. Laurie Larson says

    I live in Washington (state) and first heard about Chaffin Family Orchards on your blog over a year ago. I have been through several gallons which I bottled in glass wine bottles with reusable plastic corks and stored in the the fridge. It does solidify (the good stuff does) but liquifies quickly when brought out. It is amazing olive oil!! I share bottles with my daughters and we go through it quickly. I missed ordering in time for the last pressing last year and had to order elsewhere which just didn’t compare in flavor. So I got on it this year and preordered. It is soooo worth it. Just finished a box of the Satsuma oranges from them as well. They were equally as amazing. What a blessing they are willing to ship all the way up here!

  13. Dale Siar says

    I ordered two gallons, and received them about a month ago. I finally tried it tonight with Olive Oil/Lemon Greek dressing. The olive oil alone smells so fresh, like a crushed olive from the tree. Taste and Smell divine. I have not had the salad yet, but getting ready and can’t wait. I am going to wish I had more of this oil. I wonder how long it will last with the smell and flavor, a year, for the following year purchase?

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