Assay, right-minded a evaluate

Mary valley to become agri tourist destination? No, not yet at least. But that's what will change when our industry has taken off in Europe.

Lower murray olive season, September to October. (photo by Sarah K. Smith)

Marion County's annual olive harvest may come as a surprise to most observers: About 90 percent of the county's olive harvest is harvested on Sundays from August through December. That's compared to about 80 percent from the typical summer.

The annual harvests in this central Oregon hillside county are about one-quarter of what you would expect by typical county practices.

This means that more of the crop is available to the farmers than would otherwise be, Smith explains. And it means the farmers can go out and raise as much extra as they want with some extra harvest in hand.

But there are still a few things that go along with the season, including the temperature. But Smith says that's all about to change as temperatures reach record levels that hit about 40 degrees.

What's going on with the harvest season?

Harvest is already more than twice what it has been all season, but "it's also probably five to ten more days," Smith says.

The drought has not affected the amount of yield that could be harvested in the hills. Instead, she says the harvests in Marion and the other Central Oregon valleys have been "on a much higher pace."

But just because harvests are good doesn't mean they won't be bad, Smith says.

When I call Marion to ask what it's like to see the harvest season come early, it's a little disheartening. That's because for all of the effort that's gone into bringing the harvest to this high elevation it doesn't compare to what is going on up in the mountains, says Smith.

There have been lots of days when Marion doesn't have the heat necessary to light up the land, she says, and she does not want to see that happen again. (But Smith says the heat will certainly not be a problem for the people who live up the mountain on the valley's southern slopes.)

But even so, Smith says it could make the harvest season a little difficult.

Some people are starting to wonder whether it's worth it, Smith says. "Maybe it's time to get another load of horses to haul the pom-pom around."

The harvests this fall won't last long, too, she says. The last harvest in the mountains was just after Thanksgiving, and "we're going to have some winter weather."

Smith is more optimistic. "The harvests that come through the trees all season are the biggest and the slowest," she says. She believes the harvests will still be good enough to give the valley and the hills their season, she says.