Yocha Dehe Greases its Impressive Business Wheels with Olive Oil
After you build a profitable casino, luxurious hotel and championship golf course, create an award-winning wine label, manage more than 11,000 acres of farm and ranch land — including 300 head of cattle — and on top of it all, buy back your original tribal lands, what on earth do you do for an encore?
If you’re the very enterprising, 62-member Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of California’s Capay Valley, you make 100 percent premium extra-virgin olive oil, marketed under the tribe’s distinguished Séka Hills label.
“The American consumer is really short-changed when it comes to fresh, virgin olive oil,” says Tribal Chairman Marshall McKay, reflecting on recent studies challenging the purity of many olive oils in the U.S. “So we decided one of our main quests would be to provide that for consumers.”
In 2008, after much research and consulting with the University of California Davis olive center, the Yocha Dehe tribe planted its first olive trees on 80 acres of poor, dry soil — the perfect conditions to grow Arbequina olives, a Spanish variety that prospers in Mediterranean-like climates. And in fall of 2011, they reaped the fruits of their labor.
“We completely sold out of our first year’s production,” says Jim Etters, director of land management for the tribe, who says their olive oil has been described as smooth and buttery, with a hint of grass and black pepper. “It was a strong start and started us on the right foot, helping us develop the market and learn the business.”
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