Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Clocks should not be turned forward in spring. They should be turned back, and not just once, but once a day.
Spring, in Latin, means “the season that is really short when so much work must be done.”
This spring is dominated by drought. But Frate Sole received three times the rain it did last year, now just a couple of inches shy of the season average.
The warm drenching rains of November and December cut a narrow path across Northern California, right over Yolo County. The pond was filled and still floats ducks.
And the grass grew tall and needs mowing and mowing and mowing before the irrigation hose can be uncoiled and irrigation started early because of the dry January, February and March.
But spring also is a surprise a moment: The showy white popcorn flowers where the puddles were the deepest. Yellow, white and crimson clover. Tiny purple somethings and clusters of yellow mustard. A miniature forest of bell beans – with their tassels of white and purple buds – grow straight and tall, planted the night the orange and black won the World Series to fix nitrogen for the next season.
They all come and go before the pale yellow fireworks of the olive blossoms.
As the orchard and the oaks get bigger with each spring, a new bird species is lured to the farm. Western Kingbirds, red-headed finches and robins act like they have always summered here.
The year’s new immigrant is the cedar waxwing, an astonishingly beautiful bird with their pale yellow belly, tan crest and black bandit eye mask.
But taking a closer look, the bees are working hard to gather the nectar and spread the pollen. And all that nest building is more strenuous than anything a farmer will ever do on a tractor.
Spring is hard work -- but the office has great views.
It's all about the olives
The fruit is hand-picked and cold-processed before the sun sets a second time to ensure fresh and flavorful oil.
The olives in the photograph are Coratinas ripening in the October sun.
At Frate Sole (aka Brother Sun), our business partners include Sister Rain and Mother Earth.
We do not use artificial chemicals or fertilizers. We plant cover crops to naturally increase the fertility of the soil. And we judiciously irrigate with a drip system. Our orchard has been graded to restore seasonal wetlands. The captured winter runoff provides habitat and replenishes the aquifer; the edges are newly planted with native oaks and grasses.
It is a place where people – and coyotes and rabbits, hawks and even the occasional snake – are the way God made them.
... with tomorrow in mind
Our goal is to create a sustainable enterprise that yields healthy and world-class olive oil in a flourishing ecosystem that will be worked and enjoyed by our children's children.
If you want to follow a sesaonal summary of what this really means, go to the Grower's Journal to track our activities, including events and awards.
We are glad you are here.
From the navigation bar on the left, you can learn all about us.
FRATE WHO describes why we picked an Italian name for a venture rooted in California's Sacramento Valley.
GROWER'S JOURNAL let's you follow along from season to season.
JUST ADD OIL provides recipes for some of our favorite ways to use extra virgin olive oil.
HARVEST PHOTOS gives you a glimpse of our favorite days of the year.
PRODUCT INFO tells you where you can buy Frate Sole.
The rest is the usual business.
Good as Gold
Frate Sole enters two competitions as a way to ensure you of our commitment to quality. The Los Angeles International Fair competition, and our own Yolo County Fair, which we have entered since the county initiated the competition in recognition of our region's long history and promising future in the art of olive oil.
To be eligible, all oils must be chemically certified as meeting extra virgin olive oil standards. The dates listed are the year of the awards, from oil picked the previous autumn:
2015: Yolo gold, best of class, best of show, best of Yolo County.
2014: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2013: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2012: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2011: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
2010: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2009: LA silver. Yolo gold.
2008: LA gold. Yolo silver.
2007: LA silver. Yolo gold, best of Yolo County.
2006: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2005: LA bronze. Yolo gold.
2004: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
Ready, Set, Pour
The 2014 harvest yielded a wonderfully fruity oil. The early ripening and mild weather allowed us to harvest olives with precision in October and November.
The final product is a blend of our Tuscan varieties, a flavor profile that is prized around the world and stands apart from most of the great California oil that is now being produced.
Most of the new plantings are of a Spanish or Greek variety that produce a nice light and fruity oil that is easy to mass produce -- but also lower in the heart-healthy polyphenols and the flavor complexity of the traditional Tuscan blend.
Let us know if you want to try gold.
FRB Year Three
For a third year, volunteers from Davis Community Church spent a Sunday in the orchard for a project sponsored by the Foods Resource Bank. The EVOO will be sold to congregants in December, and the proceeds will be added to the money raised by selling sweet corn grown by another Yolo farmer to support agricultural projects in developing countries. Raising hopes, one olive, one kernel at a time. For more information, see the Grower's Journal.
Hi, can we visit?
It is one of our favorite emails, especially among those that come from strangers. They see a bottle of Frate Sole in a winery or restaurant; maybe they find us online -- and they take us up on the offer to see where the sun meets the tree. We always learn as much as they do, about growing sugar beets in South Dakota or life in New York City. Every season offers something a little different, so if you plan to be in the neighborhood, feel free to drop us a line at Andrea@fratesole.net.