Meet a Farmer: Lewis and Suzanne Jester of Eyrie Olive Oil Company
Eyrie is a fitting name for the lovely California olive oil company that sits high above the fog of the Sonoma Valley floor where they make award winning California extra virgin olive oil. Run by “retired” couple Lewis and Suzanne Jester, Eyrie Olive Oil Company, produces oil from olives that were milled within 12 hours of harvest by cold extraction!
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Lewis and Suzanne: Generally, we’re making sure the olive fruit flies are under control, and adjusting the drip irrigation for optimal watering as we get closer to harvest time (end of October to early November most likely for us). The olives look great, but this will probably be a lower yield harvest for this year (it tends to cycle every other year). We love walking through the orchard and just enjoying the outdoors.
CA GROWN: What is your favorite part of farming?
Lewis and Suzanne: Probably the fulfillment of growing an estate crop and sharing the healthy results with the community. Overcoming the many challenges can be frustrating at times, but very satisfying in the end. Both my husband and I have science backgrounds, so we enjoy applying that approach to our farming.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Lewis and Suzanne: Aside from explaining the health benefits and selling our extra virgin olive oil almost all locally, we occasionally contribute it to good causes. Of course we use local labor, goods, and services in our farming, so we give back to the community through use of as many of the immediate area resources as we can.
CA GROWN: What drew you into the farming profession?
Lewis and Suzanne: Recently retired, we wanted to stay active and apply our science backgrounds in a rewarding way. (By the way, we significantly underestimated the time and effort required, but love it anyway!)
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Lewis and Suzanne: We love the outdoors, so hiking, skiing, boating, and visiting national parks are a good part of it. We have two children’s families (3 grandchildren with a 4th on the way) in the Bay Area, so we thoroughly interact with them as much as we can.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a farmer?
Lewis and Suzanne: Read as much as possible before you get into it, and apply what you learn. Don’t get too frustrated, things will be different tomorrow. Love and enjoy the outdoors.
CA GROWN: What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Lewis and Suzanne: We farm organically, so use as many natural, recyclable resources (cover crops, fertilizers, pest control, etc) as possible. Solar power provides all our electricity needs (with some surplus!), and water management–while not truly sustainable–is carefully controlled (well water timers, drip irrigation).