story: Beth K. Maxey photo: KaraStewartPhotography.com
TEHAMA COUNTY'S PACIFIC SUN GOURMET
Tucked away on a rural Tehama County road is a golden treasure – richly flavored Pacific Sun extra virgin olive oil pressed from locally grown, hand-harvested fruit from trees that have been in the area for decades.
Pacific Sun Gourmet is part of Pacific Farms and Orchards, Inc., a family business owned by Jane Flynn and managed by her son Brendon Flynn, which grows plums, almonds and walnuts for Sunsweet, Blue Diamond and Diamond.
The farm was founded in 1952 by Flynn’s grandfather Bernard, a San Diego soap company owner, who bought land in Vina which he later sold to monks who established the Cistercian-Trappist Abbey of New Clairvaux. So he bought more land on Gerber’s east side and began farming, requiring his children to spend summers working there. In the early 1970s, his son Vincent founded Pacific Farms and Orchards, Inc., which he ran until he died in a plane crash in 1986. With help and encouragement from her family and the farm’s loyal employees, his wife Jane Flynn continued the business, focusing on the orchard crops. And when Brendon Flynn, agribusiness degree from Cal Poly in hand, came home after working several years in the Salinas Valley, he had something new in mind.
“I wanted to find a product to directly market from farm to fork – a direct consumer product,” he says. He had to look only as far as the old Mission olive trees lining the road to the family farm: a new olive oil industry was beginning to re-emerge in California.
Pacific Sun produced 200 gallons of oil in 2002 and began its own milling in 2004. Flynn partners with local growers to buy fruit for oil in addition to hand-harvesting the old trees on the family’s land, and considers relationships both with local producers and the product’s consumers of key importance to the company.
“Our desire is to connect people to where their food comes from,” says Flynn. “Our product sells best when we talk to people. We prefer to have that connection with consumers.”
North state residents, food buyers, and chefs are invited to meet owners and employees, pick olives in the orchards, watch the milling process and sample olive oil during “Love at First Crush” on Sunday, Nov. 8, from 11 am to 3 pm.
Families are encouraged to attend the free event, says sales manager Leslie Hoyt. Activities include tours of the mill, hay rides, olive picking, music, olive oil tasting (and free sample bottles while supply lasts) and wine tasting from local wineries. Food will be available for purchase.
“People always say they didn’t know how long it takes to fill a bucket (with olives),” says Hoyt. The open house ties in with the company’s core values of sustainability, health, and quality for its employees, products and community, and with Flynn’s desire to forge relationships with his product’s users.
New this year is a community milling opportunity, where people can bring olives from their own trees for crushing and then share the resulting oil based on the amount of olives they contribute.
“People can bring between 20 to 500 pounds of olives,” says Hoyt. Olives will be received from 9 am to 1 pm on Sunday, Nov. 8, as part of the “Love at First Crush” event, or on Sunday, Dec. 6. Milling is 50 cents per pound.
“This should add another level of merriment,” Hoyt says, smiling. Pacific Sun’s artisan extra virgin olive oil can vary in taste from year to year and batch to batch. “We handcraft our blends according to what nature gives us every year,” Flynn says. “There are small variances, but there is a difference.”
“It keeps it interesting,” agrees Hoyt. “We have notes on each barrel – the fruitiness, the pungency.” The company can trace its products back to a location in each orchard. The millhouse and production facility is certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers.
Flynn and his employees are proud of several recent awards for their signature blends, including best of show and best in class gold and silver medal awards from the 2009 Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, plus two gold medals and one silver medal from the 2009 Yolo County Fair California Olive Oil competition. •
Pacific Sun Gourmet Pacific Farms and Orchards, Inc. 22880 Gerber Rd., Gerber (530) 385-1475 www.pacificsunoliveoil.com