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Spanish Influence in California at Ternero

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Felipe Ternero shows a visitor his Lincoln orchard Felipe Ternero shows a visitor his Lincoln orchard

By Dan Clarke

Spanish missionaries of the Franciscan order planted olive trees in California in the latter part of the 18th Century, but it has been in more recent years that Americans have really begun to appreciate olive oil.

Lisa Ternero in chair PicmonkeyLisa Ternero A 2016 Bloomberg article reported that world-wide olive oil consumption had doubled since 1990, but that U.S. consumption had tripled during that same period. As of two years ago, the U.S. was the world’s third-largest olive oil market and responsible for $2 billion in annual sales. Approximately 97% of that oil was imported. Spokespeople for various aspects of the burgeoning American olive oil industry make the case that much of this imported olive oil is of inferior quality and sometimes even fraudulently labeled. If their efforts to educate the American consumer about olive oil and what they believe are the advantages of higher-quality and fresher domestic product continue to be successful, it would seem to be a very good time to be an olive grower.

Felipe Ternero came to Northern California in 1990 to visit friends and, finding the area to his liking, enrolled at Chico State. Having grown up around the family olive orchards in Spain, he decided not to enter the school’s respected ag program, opting instead to broaden his horizons by studying Political Science and International Relations.

At the time Lisa Smith was a Communications/Broadcast major and her apartment was just across the street from the field where the young Spaniard and his soccer teammates practiced. Lisa and her roommates would gather on the balcony to watch. Apparently, romance blossomed and Lisa became Mrs. Ternero in a downtown Sacramento ceremony in April of 1998. “All his family from Spain came and it was a great party,” Lisa recalls. She worked in radio for 22 years, but now runs the sales and marketing aspects of the family’s Ternero Olive Oil business.

Felipe still manages that Corning property. Most of the crop there is grown for the table olive market and goes to Lindsay Olives. The remaining fruit is destined for olive oil with about 15 percent of the harvest used for Ternero Farms’ own oil products and the balance being sold to other processors.

Ternero oil fundraiser packaging PicmonkeyCustom labeling for a fund raising project

Felipe and Lisa and their fourteen year old-twins, Nico and Bella, live just east of Sacramento in Granite Bay. It’s a very nice residential community and a good place to raise a family. However, it’s two hours drive to Corning which makes for a rugged commute. In 2014 the Terneros purchased 10 acres near Lincoln, California---about 15 miles from Granite Bay. The following year they planted eight of those acres specifically for olive oil. If things continue to go well, the Terneros will look to develop more olive orchards in this part of Placer County.

Ternero Farms includes orchards in Corning and now Lincoln, but also at the Ternero family estate at Estepa in Spain’s Andalusian region. Felipe and Lisa have a fledgling olive oil company, but they are growth-oriented. Having won recent gold medals at the California State Fair and the New York International Olive Oil Competition, these artisan producers are looking to market more of their own oil and are developing innovative products and marketing methods.

In addition to olive oils produced under their own Ternero label, a product line dubbed Olive Over Me includes soaps and “essential oils with our oil,” comments Lisa. She has also hit upon an unusual idea for marketing Ternero’s artisan oils for kitchen use. Recognizing that some tried-and-true fund-raising campaigns featuring cookies, mints and chocolate bars might be starting to cloy on the palates of the consumers, Lisa applied a similar strategy for marketing what she believes is a healthier product—olive oil. Half-liter bottles get a label customized to reflect the entity selling them as a fundraising effort and can be priced at a level competitive to quality store-bought oils.

Returning from playing soccer on a recent Sunday afternoon, Felipe Ternero takes a writer on a tour of his new orchard in Lincoln. Asked why he enjoys growing olives, Felipe doesn’t hesitate. “It’s satisfying,” he replies. “Growing a new orchard—to see the trees grow in the way you envisioned it.”

Acknowledging that starting a new orchard can be hard work, he adds, “But when you see and taste the end product, you say, ‘You know what, let’s do it again.’ “

Editor’s note: More information about Ternero Farms visit www.ternerooliveoil.com.

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