There’s a little joke Beth Clark likes to play when people come to visit her olive grove in Lillian.
“I always tease people and tell them to go out on row 23 and that is the row where we have olives with the pimentos in them,” she said with a laugh.
Clark is pretty sure she and her husband, Brooks, have the only olive grove in Alabama with their 3,000 trees on seven acres.
“I’m not sure that I know of one,” Clark said. “There are many in Florida but I’m not sure there is another one in the state.”
Her olives are not for eating and none of hers will end up whole in jars on store shelves. That’s brought on a few other humorous moments from grove visitors. The Clarks make olive oil with theirs.
“The birds don’t like them and I’m sure we have deer out there and they don’t like them at all,” Clark said. “You either have to press them or you have to brine them. They are very bitter.
“We’re behind a neighborhood and some of the neighborhood boys came over and said, ‘Can we have an olive?’ I said sure you can have an olive. Go ahead and taste it and see if you like. It was so funny. No one is stealing our olives.”
But if you want some sure ’nuff olive oil, the Clarks make a batch every year with their crop since starting the grove in 2014. They grow two types of Spanish olives and one Greek variety.
“It’s challenging, rewarding and it is a lot of work. And yet when those olives come and you can press them and have the freshest oil on the coast, it’s pretty satisfying,” Clark said. “We do it all. We grow them, try to keep the trees healthy. We harvest them and we press them. We have a millhouse right on property and we bottle it as well right there.”
They’re still hoping to turn a profit but they aren’t having any trouble selling all they can produce each year.
“We had 150 bottles, 16.9-ounces each that we sold last year by word of mouth,” Clark said. “The first year we had 50 that we were able to press and bottle. We have some varieties that haven’t produced before that have produced this year so we’ll see what happens. We’re always cautiously optimistic about what can happen and how nature treats you.”
Clark said she and her husband were looking for something to do as they grow a bit older to keep them busy and decided on the olive grove.
“There are olive farms in Lakeland, Georgia,” she said. “We went over there because we wanted to do something interesting in our middle age, so we went over there to check it out. We went to several of their olive meetings. We decided after a year we would try our hand at it.”
An added bonus is Clark gets to use the freshest olive oil on the coast in her own kitchen.
“I’m a foodie,” she said. “I love to cook.”
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