Name: Clotilde Julien
Business: Olea Farm
What they said then: In August 2009, The Tribune reported on the increase in olive plantings in San Luis Obispo County. “The last five years demonstrated the important, growing olive oil industry in our county, as well as the state,” said Clotilde Julien, owner of Olea Farm in Templeton with her husband, Yves Julien.
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They formerly retailed antiques. But as demand for their oil grew, they sold the antique business and focused on their farm. Local landowners also hired them to plant trees, sometimes selling the fruit back to Olea.
What she says now: With steady growth in both olive oil sales and orchard development, the Juliens started a new business, Mill on Wheels.
With partners Charles and Denise Schryver and Millie and Jack Bogdanovich, they invested roughly $500,000 in a custom-made machine that can process two tons of olives per hour.
“Last year was extremely successful,” Clotilde Julien said of the mill’s first harvest. “We processed 250 tons in our first year — just in our area.”
Harvest typically runs from mid-October to December or January, depending on the weather. This year’s crop is a little behind because the unusually cool summer slowed ripening.
This season, Clotilde Julien expects the mill to travel to orchards in Monterey, San Diego and Los Angeles counties. But she emphasized the purchase was driven by a local need.
“There’s only one other mill in the county and they process half-a-ton an hour,” she said. “We didn’t want the olives to go somewhere else,” such as Santa Barbara County, which has several mills.
“We have planted a lot of trees that are going to come into production — some this year, the majority next year,” she added. Olea has 1,200 in its orchard.
Last year, the state Department of Agriculture recorded about 962 acres of olives planted in the county, said Tamara Kleeman, the agricultural inspector-biologist who tracks fruit crops. That acreage has increased nearly 16 percent since 2008. But less than half of those are bearing fruit, Kleeman estimates. It takes about four or five years, depending on the varietal, before a new tree produces olives.
“In the past three years or so, we’ve planted 50,000 trees in the North County alone,” Clotilde Julien said. “Our business has grown so much that we need the oil.”
The bulk of Olea’s oil goes to restaurants and retailers, ranging from 5-ounce bottles to 50-gallon drums. It also sells to tasting room visitors and club members, but Clotilde Julien said they are most proud of their 17 steady restaurant customers, both local and in Southern California.
“To sell olive oil to a restaurant is very difficult because our prices are high compared to what they’re used to buying,” she said. “It’s not a product the customer notices.”