I’m here to tell you about an old olive town called Corning, a place folks around here call Olive City. It began at the end of the 1800s with families starting small farms and building homes because of a fellow named Warren Woodson who created a place called the Maywood Colony, which later became my town – Corning. Woodson’s sales pitch was to draw easterners out west to start orchards, and the trees that did the best were olives. Some of those trees from the 1890s are still producing today for friends of mine today.
Back in February ‘47, H.R. Crane agreed to purchase 25 acres south of town. Fortuitously, it was full of old olive trees. Now, I can only speculate that he bought the land to keep his children occupied, working hard, and out of trouble the way folks did back then. He probably hadn’t imagined that the grandsons would be cultivating over 100 acres of Sevillano, Mission, and Manzanillo olives in the decades to come.
It’s funny to think back and remember all the old businesses in town that helped Corning become the Olive Capital of the World. I remember riding my bicycle past the old Maywood Packing Company when they only harvested 16 ton of olives, and boy did they grow quickly! They started harvesting and procession 6,000 ton a year not long after that. I remember it like it was yesterday when Corning got its second olive plant. I could see the old Heinz tower from Solano Street, but people loved olives and Bell Carter had to grow, so they removed the old tower to make room for Bell Carter’s expansion.
There used to be so many olive companies in Corning! Les Schwab used to be the home of Pacific Coast Olive Products Company and the old Dick King’s Corning Auto Center was once known as the California Olive Packers plant where I used to steal a kiss from my gal before the street lights came on.
I sure do miss the old the days, but the olive tradition in Corning still lives on and those Crane boys still farm olives. In fact, they’re farming a bunch of different olives now, 17 different types, I hear, and not for canning, but for olive oil. They own Lucero Olive Oil company, a bit pricey for an old timer like me, but they sure know what they’re doing winning awards and such, and the city folk seem to like ‘em.
Olive farming has come a long way from what I can remember.
-- Clem, Corning lifetime resident
June 1st each year we celebrate National Olive Day, a day to appreciate the many ways to enjoy olives with family and friends and reflect on how much joy this little fruit can bring to your table.