Peggy Chase is nearing 80, but you won’t find her sitting on her front porch in a rocking chair anytime soon. On an average morning, she’s working outside in the fresh air alongside her husband Bud. Their life, and their livelihood, is inextricably intertwined with their 22-acre olive ranch in Cholame.
“We still climb trees and dig ditches,” Peggy Chase says during a recent chat about the blood, sweat and tears that go into every bottle of their artisanal offering, Olive U Olive Oil Co.
In many ways, the ranch operates the same as it did when the couple purchased and planted the trees back in the late 90s. The bulk of the work is done by the Chases with welcome help from their family and a harvest team.
“We hand harvest, and that makes a big difference because a lot of mechanical harvesting causes bruising,” Peggy says. “It’s just like a bruised apple. Might not be not bad for you, but it doesn’t taste as good. We are very careful with our harvests.”
When you’ve been married 58 years, you learn how to make the best of each other’s strengths. Bud performs the labor while Peggy takes a role in marketing as well as day-to-day farm tasks.
“Learning to work together has been both frustrating and laughable as we are both leaders, but like all marriages, it is a give-and-take situation,” Peggy says.
The couple met in high school in the Los Angeles area circa 1955. Peggie had grown up in Ohio with chickens and open spaces; Bud had grown up on a working farm in Fresno.
“He picked cotton and I picked beans,” Peggy likes to say of their rural childhoods. “When we were dating, we both talked about moving to Fresno to start a farm, but we got rooted down south.”
Peggy went on to
become a supervisor at the phone company while her husband became a heavy hitter in the tire business. Still, the farming dream persisted.
“When we could afford it, we started looking for a farm. We drove up this way and found the ranch,” Peggy says, adding that the initial acreage totaled 3,500.
“We later downsized because we were getting too old for all that,” she says. “We were wondering what we could do with the smaller parcel and thought olives might work. Turns out it was the perfect climate.”
As it turns out, the dry climate and soil type proved to be perfect conditions for Mission and Manzanilla trees, as they do well in dry air and well-drained soil. While some people prefer ultra-peppery, grassy or pungent olive oils, Olive U Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil is more mild and versatile.
“We went for the American palette. We felt they wanted a milder oil,” she says, “We went for an oil you can use for anything.”
You can even stop by their ranch and tasting room, open by appointment only. Peggy says the pace of life is slower out in the country, just like it always has been.
“The most impressive thing we encountered when we moved here was the neighbors. Everybody helped everybody,” she says. “When we moved here, all the farmers were willing to help us. We were green – we were city people.”
Not so anymore. The Chases are now one with the land, living for each new harvest.
“We both love to work outdoors,” Peggy says. “It’s good exercise, and we don’t make a lot of money doing it, but we are out there working with our hands and connecting with the land.”
For more information on purchasing Olive U Olive Oil Co. products or to make an appointment at the tasting room,