For three generations, Dewey Lucero’s family has harvested olives. Not long ago, he began harvesting tourists.
Through those generations, the Luceros had been olive growers. Then in 2005, Dewey Lucero followed his paternal grandfather’s example, of pressing olive oil for holiday gifts, by founding Lucero Olive Oil. Last year, he added a sleek retail store to its Corning plant and began offering tours, a tasting room and regular events to draw travelers off Interstate-5.
“I started Lucero Olive Oil in my parents’ garage,” Lucero says. He began work after college as a quality engineer, but a companywide layoff brought him back to his family’s heritage… olives. “I know now I was meant to do this. I was lucky to have olives in my family history, and I see myself as now standing on their shoulders.”
In his first year, Lucero shipped 83 boxes of olive oil. This past year, he shipped 400 boxes in one day. In less than a decade, Lucero Olive Oil (lucerooliveoil.com) has become the best olive oil producer in the country and one of the best in the world. “We’re very proud of that,” Lucero says, as olive oil is, “a product of love. It’s like wine… you sit at a table, enjoy it together.”
Like California’s wine growing areas, the Corning area has a following of olive oil fanciers who come to see the crush and taste fresh extra virgin olive oils including Lucero’s Ascolano, Mission, Sevillano, Manzanillo, Arbequina and blended varieties. California producers like Lucero are leading the trend toward new blends and flavors. In December, the winter crush included zesty Meyer lemon and lime oils. Others include Mandarin orange, basil, garlic and chocolate infused oils.
Among California’s agricultural capitals tiny Corning, 45 miles south of Redding, has the distinction of being called the Olive Capital. Bell-Carter Foods, the nation’s largest olive producer, has a production facility there as do several olive growers, packers and stores. The Olive Pit is one of them. It grew from a roadside stand in 1967 to such fame that the King of Jordan expressed interest in visiting, when he last visited California. A steady line of travelers stop to taste olives stuffed with almonds, garlic, pimentos, onions, anchovy, habanero, blue cheese, Texas chilis, mushrooms and many other delicacies.
Pacific Sun Olive Oil in Gerber is operated on a third generation family-owned farm since 1952. During its annual “Love at First Crush” open house, visitors venture into the olive orchards to pick olives before turning them into extra virgin olive oil.
Of course, olives are not the only crop with a faithful following in the Shasta Cascade. Almonds, walnuts, prunes and figs are also grown here and can be purchased at numerous farm stands along Tehama and Sierra Oro Farm Trails. More is found at tehamatrails.com and sierraoro.com.
As family growers like the Luceros improve upon the many agricultural products they produce, travelers are seeking them and discovering the delicious things they create in the Shasta Cascade.