Rich Georgia soil is probably most famous for its peanuts and peaches, but there’s a new crop in town – olives.
Longstanding business partners Georgia Senator Tommie Williams, Clint Williams and
Derrien Ramsey began an experiment four years ago, dedicating five acres of their Toombs County land to olive trees.
The “experiment” has put Terra Dolce Farms on the map. Their very first batch of buttery, grassy olive oil won the highest award out of 651 entries at the New York International Olive Oil Competition.
“Just sort of on a whim, the last day of entry I sent four bottles in for the competition thinking ‘Well, it’s worth a shot’,” said Williams. “And then a month later I got an email that I had won.”
Native to the Mediterranean, olive oil production in the U.S. has traditionally been pursued in California, Arizona and Texas. But South Georgia is changing the landscape. The first step in producing high quality olive oil starts with selecting the right plot of land. “Well if you notice that this land is slightly sloping North to South, and that gives you the most sunlight in the winter per day,” said Williams. “They do not like standing water. So as you can see, I’ve slightly bedded this land so any water that falls on this bed will go away.” After the harvest, the oil is extracted from the olives in a machine called a self-contained olive mill. “When the olives are picked, they have to be milled right away,” said Williams. “I think one of the reasons we were successful is because we had good olives but we also took a lot of care in learning how to process the oil.” Strippagio, an olive oil and vinegar shop in Atlanta, is one of the three locations carrying the new hit product. Celia Tully, the shop’s owner, didn’t hesitate to start stocking Strippagio’s shelves with the South Georgia olive oil. “I tasted it and immediately called and ordered three cases and ten days later, those were gone. I think people are just blown away by the fact that their first harvest yielded such a great product,” said Tully. Terra Dolce olive oil is also sold at Olive Affair in Brunswick and The Salt Table in Savannah. Olive oil lovers can also buy it in local Lyons stores and online Derrien Ramsey says Terra Dolce Farms local success is just the beginning. “You get three boys from South Georgia coming here and we competed with the world,” said Ramsey. “The future of olive oil in Georgia...the sky’s the limit.”