McEvoy Ranch: What Sustainability Means for Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

McEvoy Ranch: What Sustainability Means for Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Picture 500+ acres of natural habitat in the near coastal region of Petaluma, California. Rolling hills (both green and golden), olive trees, vineyards… It’s a color scheme that recalls the Mediterranean, but with a uniquely California glow.

That’s McEvoy Ranch. 30 years ago, when they planted their first olive trees, Farmer Al and Chef Becky were there to join in celebration. Al and Becky have been back almost every year since to enjoy the olive harvest and revel in the beauty of the land. And they send Frog Hollow’s own olives to be milled there every year to make our Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

“It’s a natural partnership,” Samantha Dorsey, President of McEvoy Ranch, tells me over the phone. “Even more than the sentimental piece and our longtime connection, we love partnering with Frog Hollow Farm because you guys are such great farmers. I know the products you make are excellent and sustainable and authentic and beautiful, like ours.”

It helps that we share such a deep core valuethe key to making our final products taste so good. Sustainability. It’s a word that can mean so many things, depending on the industry or who’s saying it. But to us, it’s not a marketing sell point. It’s a lens through which we make every day-to-day decision. Samantha’s definition resonates: sustainability is an all-encompassing philosophy including land, people, and practicesevery business choice, farming decision, and interpersonal interaction. She’s thinking about how to nurture the soil so it continues producing generations down the line. And she’s thinking about the team of people who are so vital to keeping it all going.

“A huge part of our relationship with Frog Hollow and a key part of our business is that we’re well-aligned in how we respect our workforce,” says Samantha. “We both believe that you can't have organic sustainability without social sustainability. And that starts on the farm, on the ranch, with how we treat each other. I know that Frog Hollow has some really long time employees, just like we have at McEvoy Ranch. We’re committed to providing jobs that pay a living wage and allow our employees to raise families here.”

We also benefit from a longtime, experienced team at Frog Hollow. There’s an incredible amount of knowledge and skill built over time that allow us to continue refining. When there’s a deep understanding of what’s worked in the past, there’s a flexibility to improve upon and try new things.

“Like Frog Hollow we’re a small family owned business, we’re not owned by a major corporation. We’re not beholden to stockholders or any other conglomerate,” says Samantha. “It allows us to stay really true to the core values of our business: excellence, authenticity, sustainability, beauty, and relationships. Those five core values really drive everything that we do and all the decisions that we make. We’re relentless in our pursuit of putting out beautiful, excellent, authentic products and maintaining the health of the land.”

McEvoy orchards have been certified organic for more than 20 years. And only 15% of their property is planted, leaving the rest for natural habitat. “Our primary goal as farmers is to grow good soil,” says Samantha. “Beautiful, healthy, nutritious crops follow.”

McEvoy is no-till operation, meaning they never release the carbon stored in the soil back into the atmosphere. Keeping that carbon in the soil is not only a climate change solution, but it contributes to soil nutrients and tree health. McEvoy’s farming practices are intentional and effective. But the team also believes deeply in letting the trees do what they do best. “Olive trees are really good at sequestering carbon from the atmosphere,” says Samantha. “It’s partially because they’re evergreen so they keep photosynthesizing all year round. ”

The trees are also well-suited for the area, a changing climate, and an uncertain future for California agriculture. “In terms of water management, olives trees are a great crop for modern day California because they’re drought tolerant and are so much less thirsty than other commodity crops grown here. We’re able to be very parsimonious with the use of water at the ranch, meanwhile producing an extraordinarily healthy, shelf-stable fat. Because olive oil doesn’t need refrigeration, it has a much lower carbon footprint.”

Digging into even just the surface of how McEvoy Ranch does things, it’s clear why Farmer Al has maintained such a strong partnership for so many years.

“Nan McEvoy’s vision to create olive oil production in Sonoma County was a truly visionary thing to do,” he says. “And we’re seeing the fruits of that foresight. When we visit McEvoy’s processing facility, which is state of the art, we get to taste the olive oil right off the mill. They’re experts. They break down the science for you right there. And there’s nothing quite like the quality.”

That freshness is something Samantha wishes everyone could experience. “There’s a surprising amount of misinformation about olive oil for it being such an ancient product. So many misunderstandings about what makes it good,” she tells me. “One thing I wish people knew is what really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil tastes like. And there isn’t just one taste. There’s many, many hundreds of flavor profiles that are all extraordinary. And equally, there’s many flavor profiles in peoples’ pantries that are actually just really crummy olive oil! I wish people knew what fresh, delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil tastes like so they knew how to choose it and cook it well.”

I have to admit, I told her, the fun facts about olive oil she was sharing were new to me. I didn’t know black olives and green olives come off the same tree and that it’s just a matter of ripeness. Or that when you make olive oil, you squish everything together. And I mean everything. Pits, flesh, all of it! Thankfully, I did know you don’t want to eat olives right off the tree like you would with Frog Hollow’s fruit. You’d be in for a yucky-tasting surprise! Getting a look behind the curtain of what goes into making such a culinary staple, I have a new appreciation for the quality. I see why it’s worth sourcing it straight from the operation. Worth seeking out.

McEvoy Ranch has plenty of olive-related products to choose from. They’re able to experiment and innovate as a nimble, small operation. They have a lineup of beautiful and unusual Agrumato oils, for example, where they co-mill olives with other fruit. They have olive oil-based beauty and CBD lines, too. And wine! The team is great at finding “new world manifestations of an old world product,” as Samantha so wonderfully puts it. Repurposing ancient beauty for us to enjoy in our modern life.

At the core of our conversation, it’s clear what Samantha’s favorite part of ranching is. The people. “There’s nothing like sitting at the table enjoying a good meal with people who are just getting to know our olive oils and our wines and our beauty products and culinary products for the first time.”

And as I’ve heard from the Frog Hollow team who have visited the ranch in past years, the feeling is mutual. “We just love to go there,” says Farmer Al. “It’s always a joyful thing to visit. For one reason, it’s beautiful. And two, they’re just such nice people.”

Enjoy our McEvoy partnered Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil delivered right to your door in 48 hours.

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