Homegrown olive oil a labour of love for B.C. couple

This year, a few lucky British Columbians got their hands on some locally grown extra-virgin olive oil — all thanks to a pair of intrepid farmers on Salt Spring Island.

Salt Spring Island farm produced 35 litres from this winter's harvest

George and Sheri Braun of Salt Spring Island produced their first 35 litres of extra virgin olive oil this winter. (The Olive Farm)

This year, a few lucky British Columbians got their hands on some locally grown extra virgin olive oil — all thanks to a pair of intrepid farmers on Salt Spring Island.

George and Sheri Braun produced just 35 litres of cold-pressed oil from their harvest of 450 kilograms at The Olive Farm this December, and it's already all sold out.

The Brauns say theirs is the first olive oil produced in Canada.

"It actually tastes great. We've had sommeliers from Montreal and a few other places that are giving it good reviews," Sheri told On the Island host Gregor Craigie this week.

George Braun picks olives at his farm on Salt Spring Island. (The Olive Farm)

The couple was inspired to grow olives after taking trips through Europe. After a bit of research, they decided to take the plunge and plant their first grove about five years ago. 

"We had visited a farm in northern Oregon and their climate was very similar to ours. We were told if you could grow madrone trees and a pinot noir grape, then you could have a good chance with olives," Sheri said.

'A lot of challenges'

The Brauns found a plot of land near Fulford on Salt Spring, but soon discovered that while growing olives is possible in B.C., it isn't exactly easy.

"There's a lot of challenges," George said.

One of the biggest is drainage. Even on a sunny slope, the rainfall in B.C. is just too much for these Mediterranean trees. During the first winter, the Brauns kept the seedlings in a greenhouse to protect them from the cold.

After that came years of waiting and careful maintenance. But the Brauns got impatient.

"When we started out, everybody … said you've got to wait six or seven years before you can get enough olives to harvest," George said. "We ended up at the end of five years saying, 'Let's just try it.'"

George and Sheri Braun's olive farm on Salt Spring Island produced 450 kilograms of olives in 2016. (The Olive Farm)

The first yield, in 2016, was small, but now they're feeling optimistic about the future and are already taking orders for the 2017 harvest. Just in case, they've purchased an olive mill that can press hundreds of kilograms of olives every hour.

Their goal is to one day produce between 600 and 1,000 litres of oil from a single harvest.

"I wouldn't call it a big moneymaker," George said of the venture. "We're hoping that at some point it doesn't cost us money."