Olives, Farmers, Beauty & Beastly Heat

Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

My thoughts today start with the people who farm olives in this location deprived of the water needed to sustain their livelihoods. Because my mother was born on an olive-producing farm in an olive-privileged region of Greece, my eye is always drawn to stories about olive farmers.

Jaén, a province of Andalusia, has over 67 million olive trees. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

When there are photos of olive trees, I am in for the whole story. My strongest, earliest memories are of the olive trees surrounding the terrace of the farmhouse my mother grew up in. Stories about olive farmers challenged by climate change are more difficult to read without sympathy pain, but I do so knowing that olive trees are survivors.

Panacite, a store in Ubeda, sells a range of variants of oil production from the region. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

David Segal and José Bautista have reported this story with compassion and clarity:

Spain’s Jaén Province, home to one fifth of the world’s supply of “green gold,” copes with climate change and threats to its way of life.

The branch, plucked from one of thousands of trees in this densely packed olive grove, has browning leaves and a few tiny, desiccated buds that are bunched near the end. To Agustín Bautista, the branch tells a story and the story is about a harvest that is doomed.

Typically, those buds are green and healthy, and can produce 13,000 gallons of olive oil in a season. That is more than enough for Mr. Bautista, a 42 year old with a booming voice and close-cropped red hair, to support his wife and two young kids. Starting in October, when olives are shaken from the trees and gathered in nets on the ground, he’ll be lucky to produce one fifth of that amount.

“I’m going to lose money,” he said, in the resigned tone of a man squarely in the acceptance stage of grief. As he looked around the arid acres of his property, he summed up the reality facing Spain’s olive farmers: “No water, no future.”

Drought has ravaged dozens of crops throughout Europe — corn in Romania, rice in Italy, beans in Belgium, and beets and garlic in France. Among the hardest hit is the olive crop of Spain, which produces one half of the world’s olive oil. Nearly half of Spain’s output comes from Jaén — pronounced hi-EN — a landlocked southern province of 5,200 square miles, about the size of Connecticut, that yields far more olive oil annually than all of Italy, according to the International Olive Council. It is often called the olive oil capital of the world…

Read the whole story here.

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