Take a tour of a working olive oil mill at Foxdale Farm
When Astrid Jansen opened her Foxdale Farm Olive Farm and Mill to the public ten years ago, it brought her one step closer to her dream of being an essential part of the agriculture community. Now, as she enters her second decade of offering the best milling process to olive oil growers, Jansen continues to build on her knowledge and share it with others.
“I have learned so much from the growers and together we have found what works and what doesn’t work,” she says. “I continue to build relationships and I love being part of this amazing olive community.”
She purchased the property where her farm is situated back in 2001 while she was still working full-time as a chemist in Northern California, with the intent to spend her retirement years on the Central Coast. The olive trees on the property piqued her life-long interest in agriculture and, hungry for more knowledge, she enrolled in classes to learn more about growing and milling olives.
“As I learned more about olives and the various varieties, I discovered that the trees on my property were more for table olives and I wanted to have olives that were better suited for producing high quality olive oil,” Jansen says.
Full service, custom milling
After replanting her orchard in 2003, she started milling in 2005. Word spread throughout the community and before long her full-service mill was providing custom services for a growing number of clients in the local area. Jansen takes pride in conducting each step of her milling process quickly and efficiently in order to maintain the freshness of the oils while maintaining high standards of cleanliness and professionalism.
“We are a full service mill and we do custom work,” she says. “It really has become my passion and I like being able to take the olives and turn them into liquid gold. We do what the customer wants; we have several programs in addition to milling the olives for growers, everything from buying our customers’ olive crops and olive oil, to selling it in bulk for them.”
Along with her son Blaine, Jansen grew the business and has developed a reputation that keeps growers coming back to her mill year after year. As Blaine’s full-time job kept him from working at the mill in recent years, Jansen brought neighbor Chase McKinney aboard as her assistant miller.
Jansen has been milling longer than anyone else in the local area and her Foxdale Farm mill is the largest in California, possibly in the entire United States, she says. She invested in state-of-the- art Pieralisi equipment from Italy in order to increase the mill’s capacity from half a ton to four tons per hour in order to provide the best yield possible for her customers. She also invests in the growers themselves, taking a personal interest in their land and crops, and treating them like extended family members.
Her customers have won several major awards including Best of Show and Best of Class at the L.A. County Fair and the Yolo County Fair, and Best Small Producer at the California Olive Oil Competition (COOC). Consumers should look for the COOC seal for assurance it has been tested and is guaranteed 100 percent Extra Virgin olive oil with no defects.
“Our local olive growers produce exceptional olive oil – on a world standard they are premium,” she says. “Milling is an important part of the process as far as quality goes and it’s very important to choose the right miller. I like to go out and see the orchards and where the olives come from if possible. I like to see the soil, see what they are doing with their crops, and give them advice that may improve their crops. It’s a working relationship from growing to the bottle.”
Take a tour
Most everyone has used olive oil in their cooking or as a salad dressing, but few have actually taken a tour of a working mill to learn how the product is created. Although unable to conduct tours during the peak harvest months – the milling process takes her full attention – Jansen offers tours by appointment during the off-season to give visitors an up-close and personal look at the mill and her surrounding orchards.
After taking visitors on a tour of her mill, Jansen leads them to her tasting area. She shows her guests how to go about a formal tasting as if they were professional olive oil tasters and, if they are interested, leads a short walk through her orchard. Jansen enjoys showing the tasters how to pair the oils with various food items, including some they may have never considered.
“At times, when I offer a food item to go with a particular olive oil people kind of look at me funny,” she says, “but then they try it and they discover that it is wonderful! It’s important to me that they learn not only about how the olive oil is made, but different ways to use it.”
Focusing on education
Her focal point at Foxdale Farm, says Jansen, is education –for the consumer and for the grower. For those considering a venture into the olive growing industry, she offers orchard planning and management services.
“If you are interested in growing olives, Foxdale Farm can put you in contact with others that plant and grow olives and help you learn more about the industry,” Jansen says. “We get the full gamut of people coming out here – from those that love olive oil and want to visit a working mill to people that are looking to purchase land to grow olives and want to learn the process. We can help you from the time you are thinking about buying a piece of property – we can go out and look at the site and see if it will work well for olives – all the way up to bottling; we cover the full spectrum.”
For more information on Foxdale Farm Olive Farm and Mill, to schedule a tour of the mill, or to learn more about the range of services offered, contact Astrid Jansen at (805) 440-8959 and check out www.foxdalefarm.com. The farm and mill are located at 6850 E Highway 41 in Templeton.