“We were inspired by The Apple Farm in Philo,” said Lederle, who once worked at Handley Cellars in Philo with Ansbergs. “It needs to cook for days and days.”
With the help of another preserving company, the award-winning Little Apple Treats of Sebastopol, the farm is developing a line of vinegars and shrubs — vinegar-based syrups to make seltzer drinks and cocktails. These are still about a year out from release.
Meanwhile, herbalist Colleen Bingham Solis has started to develop a line of soaps, lotions and face cleansers from the farm’s olive oil and herbs. She has created a signature herbal scent for the organic products from a blend of bergamot, lemon, cedarwood, lavender and clary sage.
From vegetables to olives
Hazen grew up in Marin County and fell in love with plants while attending Humboldt State University and during his summer job at Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach.
“I loved being outdoors and working with my hands,” said Hazen, who turns 50 this month.
After he graduated from college in 1995, his parents helped him start a small organic vegetable farm not far from his current location in Sebastopol. In 2000, his mother bought a neighborhood 88-acre cattle ranch, which became Gold Ridge Organic Farms, and he started looking into growing olive trees there.
“I had very humble roots,” he said. “I started the orchard with just myself and one other person. … I didn’t know how well olives would do here. It was a big risk.”
In 2011, Hazen started selling his premium extra-virgin olive oil under a different label to stores such as Whole Foods. He also worked to install a high-speed, large-capacity olive press at the farm.
The Italian olive press works with the two-phase blade method of crushing, rather than the frantoio (stone mill) process.
When the olives are delivered, they are unloaded and weighed on a scale, then dumped in a hopper that carries them up to the washer, where the stones and leaves are automatically removed. The blades in a crusher break them down into a mash, pulverizing the seeds, too.
“The blades are better (than a stone mill) because it’s quicker and there’s less oxidation,” Hazen said.
The crushed olive mixture goes into a series of kneaders, or malaxers, with paddles that coax out the oil. Once the kneading is complete, the paste is pumped into a centrifuge to separate the solids (dry pomace) from the liquids (oil and fruit water).
From there, the olive liquid is filtered to remove any remaining solids, then spun a final time in separators, which separate liquid oil from the fruit water.
“It’s a three-phase system, with three streams of product — the solids, the fruit water and the oil,” Hazen said. “We have fluffy pomace (solids) that can be composted, and we put the fruit water on the fields.”
The Gold Ridge olive oil is stored in stainless tanks for a few months, then passed through another filter.
“It’s supposed to sit for eight weeks so the solids will drop up,” Lederle said. “Two years is the lifespan of an olive oil.”
Lederle hopes that in 2022 the farm will be open a couple of days a week, for paid tasting experiences by reservation only. The farm may also offer an olive oil club to help boost direct-to-consumer sales.
Meanwhile, the Gold Ridge Organic Farms olive oil is sold at Community Markets in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, Market Hall in Berkeley and Oakland and Olive This, Olive That in San Francisco.
Kim Bourdet, creative director of the branch line restaurant in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, said the fast-casual restaurant will carry the oils in its Mercantile shop. Branch line is expected to open before the winter holidays in the former Flying Goat Coffee space.
For more information, go to goldridgeorganicfarms.com.
The following three recipes are from the culinary team at branch line. To finish the toasts, thinly slice some kale and toss it with a citronette dressing with some pomegranate seeds, then pile that on the toast. To make a quick citronette, mix one part citrus juice with two parts Gold Ridge Organic Farms olive oil of your choice.
Eggplant Puree Tahini Toast with Roasted Vegetables
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer
2 tablespoons Gold Ridge Organic Farms olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Za’atar spices, to taste
2 tablespoons tahini
Baby tri-color carrots
Mushrooms of your choice
Crusty bread of your choice
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Cut the eggplant into rounds and marinate in the olive oil, paprika and za’atar for one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. After it’s marinated, roast the eggplant in the oven for six to seven minutes. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Read More: Sebastopol olive oil farm gears up for the busy harvest season