A local oil mill opens for public tours
Posted 10:22 a.m. Thursday, August 18, 2022
By: Kathryn Crockett
More than 250 visitors gathered on Saturday for a rare opportunity to tour one of the region’s newest agricultural businesses and processing facilities. Slightly centrally located between Bainbridge and Colquitt, Ga. Cook Redlands Inc. now manages an olive grove of over 2 million trees and is a subsidiary of the Bolloré Group: one of the 500 largest companies in the world.
The Bolloré Group has a diversified portfolio and has been investing in agricultural land for a long time. The company currently owns 3,300 acres spread across Florida and Georgia and is one of the largest independent plantation owners in the world, with the goal of becoming the largest producer of cold-pressed olive oil east of the United States. Rocky Mountains. Georgia’s climate offers many advantages to olive growers, allowing this location to be considered optimal for super-intensive production yields.
Redlands Farm Holding CEO Frederic Lebourg’s experience in the food industry extends beyond oil production to the “design, implementation and control of organizational functions”, making it makes the perfect person to explain the vertically integrated business model through which olive oil will be grown, processed and sold. The technology is impressive and almost unrecognizable to anyone with a preconceived idea of the cold pressing process. But nonetheless carries with it a futuristic charm that invokes a sense of precision that one would expect with the production of quality artisan food products. “The entire plant can be operated with as few as 5 operators,” says Lebourg, making it a very resilient production system.
U.S.-grown olives are gaining traction among growers as an innovative crop; however, this is not the first time in the country’s history that olive cultivation has been attempted.
Thomas Jefferson was known to have had a lifelong admiration for the olive tree, which he first discovered when he was an American envoy to France in the late 1700s. Jefferson was never able to cultivate a harvestable olive crop, but some success has been seen in the coastal region of northeastern Georgia.
But with advances in technology making the process easier, the farm’s first successful harvest is expected next month. “Really, what we’re learning from the first harvest this year is really how to get the most out of our trees. So we’ve been playing around with different types of varieties and in some areas we’re cutting down trees to give them more room,” says Operations Manager Steve Miller.
But it’s not just the company’s innovative approach to food production that has impressed Miller, who joined the team 8 months ago. “They impressed me from the perspective that it is a family business. You hear a lot of companies say this, but I have seen that they are very family oriented. They are ready to support and empower their employees, we have a good atmosphere in which to live. We want people to be part of the team.
With a focus on increasing yield and product diversification, the company hopes to slowly add more employment opportunities to the region. “We’re still hiring,” says Lebourg, adding that they’re incredibly proud of the quality of health insurance they’re able to offer their employees.
You can find their cold-pressed oils for sale in many places across the country, with more retailers ready to sell their products as production increases. You can also purchase olive trees for local pickup directly from the Fresh Pressed Farms website.