Meet a Farmer: Pamela Anderson of Olivewood Ranch Olive Oil
After 15 years of growing grapes in Suisun Valley, California, Pamela Anderson and Pete Vernasco decided to try their hand at olives. They were fortunate enough to find an existing grove with 10 year old trees with their favorite Italian varietals. Wonderful olive trees, and a large family, who are happy to pitch in on the family farm when needed, is the perfect combination for a great olive oil business!
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Pamela: I’m an artist so I’ve been in the studio all day. When I’m not playing in the dirt or traveling, I’m in the studio. We are fortunate to live in an amazing place so there are lots of beautiful landscapes to paint. I do a lot of paintings of olives and vineyards. We have a big local show coming up so I am preparing for that.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
Pamela: Harvest, because the excitement level is so high. It’s the fruition of everything we have been working on throughout the year. We have the same harvesting team each year. I tend to feed everyone too much and we really have a good time. Our kids help quite a bit with the harvesting, shows, and marketing. We have 7 kids who are all grown and out of the house now but they live close enough to help out with the business. The olive oil business is relatively new to us as we have only been in it for six years. We are all learning the business together.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Pamela: We are happy to support the local schools and athletic programs in our community. We also like to go out and meet and educate the public on the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. It’s rewarding to see this kind of exposure with consumers, especially as it relates to health benefits of California extra virgin olive oil. They learn to appreciate the nuances of flavors with the different varietals and polyphenol counts.
CA GROWN: What drew you into the farming profession?
Pamela: It was never really on our radar. We owned a farm with a produce stand for 20 years. We planted Syrah grapes on that farm, and it was fascinating to plant rootstock and then see it grow and turn into wine. My parents and grandparents were farmers and the family farming experience was very positive. We ended up selling the farm a few years ago, then I found this amazing house on 10 acres. However, it came with 1,000 olive trees. There were Italian varietals planted on the property so we moved in and started farming the olives.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Pamela: We are a very active family and we love to golf, play tennis, ski, and travel. The travel is mostly visiting countries that produce olive oil and have great art museums. We are just busy people.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a farmer?
Pamela: Well, it’s not glamourous although it might look like it sometimes. If you like hard work and enjoy the simple pleasures, farming might be for you. If you are an independent person and have some sort of marketing or business background, it’s just about using your knowledge and expertise to take the product from start to finish. It is a very satisfying business.
CA GROWN: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Pamela: Our whole ranch is on solar to minimize our energy consumption. We are on drip irrigation to conserve water. We chip all of our prunings and spread them back into the ground to minimize run off and nutrient depletion.