Posted 5/28/14 to The Beacon
By Susan Whitesell
When Diane and Mike Mitchell first bought their 11 acres in the Capay Valley, they had no idea they would soon be producing an award-winning olive oil. And this year, they will be a vendor at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.
Big Red Farms is a great fit for the upcoming Slow Food Festival. Diane says, “I really like the whole idea of it and I like a grass roots getting off the ground kind of thing.” She’s excited to have people taste Big Red Farms olive oil, which she says is, “Natural and good and fresh and it really makes a difference to your health.”
When Diane and Mike first bought the farm, which is 10 miles west of Cache Creek Casino in the town of Guinda, there was just the 1927 Sears and Roebuck catalog farmhouse and some very old and mostly non-producing almond trees. Diane muses, “We didn’t really know what it meant to have a good well and good soil.”
Friends were soon asking, “What are you going to plant?” In 2006, Diane and Mike Mitchell planted their first 1,000 Arbequina olive trees. The Arbequina is known for its hardiness and for the amount of oil produced by its relatively small fruit. The initial planting was a family affair with Mike’s mom overseeing and the extended family doing the actual planting.
Pieces began to fall into place for their first harvest when the state-of-the-art Seka Hills Olive Mill opened nearby in October 2012. By November their first batch of Big Red Farm olives were hand picked and pressed into 100 gallons of olive oil in the same day.
“People said to me ‘I never tasted olive oil that tasted like an olive!’”
Olive oil sales started casually. Diane says, “I’ve sold olive oil in my driveway. I’ve sold it to people in my [local] grocery store. I’ve sold at my beauty shop. I’ve even sold olive oil from my car. People really liked what they tasted. People said to me ‘I never tasted olive oil that tasted like an olive!’”
“We’re just a couple of people who planted all these trees and this has all happened for us!”
Big Red Farm won the Gold Award for medium intensity in 2013 and the Silver Award for mild intensity this year at the Yolo County Fair, which is known for its high quality olive oil competition. The Arbequina oil has a wonderful deep, rich, intense natural flavor with a mildly peppery aftertaste. On their early success Diane says, “We’re just a couple of people who planted all these trees and this has all happened for us!”
You can buy award winning Big Red Farm olive oil from their web site at http://bigredfarmscapay.com, the Capay Valley Vineyard and the Capay Valley Market. Diane says, “I like to keep my prices at a level where anybody can afford it.”
Meet Diane Mitchell of Big Red Farm and swirl, smell, slurp and swallow their award winning olive oil at this year’s Slow Food Festival on June 21st.
Tickets for the festival are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.
The Slow Food Festival is still in need of volunteers, such as wine pourers, to help at the event. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information about being a vendor or event sponsor.