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Growing up in Reidsville, Ga., Tracy Poling enjoyed frequent visits to her grandparents’ 300-acre farm, 30 miles south in Glennville. Performing a variety of tasks on the land, she acquired an appreciation for working the land. A native of West Milton, Ohio, Curtis Poling spent summers on his grandparents farm. The two met in Atlanta and married in 2001. Moving to St. Simons in 2002, Tracy worked in medical insurance and Curtis has been CEO of CN Global Partners since 2009. When her father passed away in 2011, they pondered what to do with the land, which had been in the family since 1855. Their farm was adjacent to the Woodpecker Trail, which was established in the early 1900s and ran from Virginia to Orlando, Fla. It’s now Route 121. Extensive research included trips to olive tree farms in California, Texas and Terra Dolce in Lyons, Ga. Returning to Glennville in 2014, they cleared 14 acres and planted 4,000 Arbequina super high-density trees. In Jan. 2018, over an inch of snow was on the ground for two days with a temperature of 22 degrees. 1,600 trees were lost, four survived from their second planting in 2017. Bringing in a dozen people to harvest by hand at the end of September, they were able to put olives into a refrigerated truck within 15 minutes. Taking the fresh crop to Lyons for milling, they had a bountiful EVOO first press with over 300 cases of a flavorful oil with a peppery finish and a acidity level of .03 (The acidity level required for Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Europe is .08, in California it’s .05.). They won a silver medal in the New York International Olive Oil Conference. Curtis got word out through the internet and half their sales have been outside of Georgia. “It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve done in life,” he said. “You put something in the ground, watch it survive and then have a good harvest. We take a spoonful of oil every day.” Handling the daily operations, Curtis put in 14 miles of a drip irrigation system and bought a mower from Italy to cut down weeds. The sandy loam soil is quite conducive for growing and drains well. Using lime, he brought the pH level up to 7 from 5. Last year, they bought 300 high density trees from Spain, France and Tunisia and they now have a total of 6,000 trees. Always entrepreneurial, Tracy and Curtis took year old leaves off the branches and made olive leaf tea for purchase. They project nearly 300 orders and expect more in 2021. Olive leaf tea is the healthiest of any green tea on the market. They are one of two olive farms in the United States to make this product. https://www.savannahnow.com/news/20201028/former-state-senator-among-georgia-olive-farmers-finding-successful-harvest-this-year
Georgia… the new Mediterranean of the United States
“Seeing the trees bring fruit and winning this prestigious Award [NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition Silver Award] is extremely humbling. This recognition provides the incentive to continue our expansions and market awareness of our product.” – Curtis Poling
by David Avery
In the last couple of decades a handful of innovative growers have introduced the art of producing olives to South Georgia. Among those individuals are Curtis and Tracy Poling of Tattnall County. In 2011 Tracy’s father passed away leaving her with 300 acres of land in the county that consisted mostly of long leaf and slash pines. In 2014 Curtis inquired of his wife what her thoughts were about selling their home in Brunswick and relocating to the farm. Obviously, she was open to the idea but they both were not exactly sure what they wanted to do with the land other than just grow pines… This brought on several years of research on their part that resulted in the decision to plant olive trees and get into the business of olive oil production.
Part of this research revealed that over one billion olive trees grow on 6 of the 7 continents. Some of those places include Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Argentina, Australia and the United States to name a few. They discovered that 139 olive varieties (cultivars) that are grown in 23 different countries account for roughly 85% of the world’s olive production. Surprisingly, 90% of the olives being harvested worldwide are being used for oil production. The remaining 10% are processed as table olives. It is this 10% that piqued the interest of the Curtis and Tracy.
When looking at soil and climate requirements, they discovered that, of course, olive trees originated from a dry, subtropical climate and are well-suited to extreme environmental conditions such as drought and high temperatures as we have in South Georgia. While the olive trees require aerated soil, they can adapt to a wide range of different soil types.
Interestingly enough olive trees can live hundreds of years and on up into thousands of years. The oldest know are 16 trees located in Lebanon near Bechealeh who are estimated to be 6,000 years old. History buffs will appreciate that they are claimed to be the source of the olive branch brought by the dove back to Noah heralding the end of the flood. At an altitude of 1300 meters, they are the highest planted olive trees. They still produce olives that are cold pressed to give an olive oil of extraordinary quality. The first trees in Georgia were planted on St. Catherine’s Island by the Spanish and further south on St Simons Island and Cumberland Island and are some 200 hundred years old.
When it got down to the business of selecting the variety of trees from the many that exist, they decided upon Arbequina from Spain. They are known for their good tasting fruit as well as producing a good quality olive oil. story continues
Our Farm Makes Front Page News
When it comes to growing olives, our state is giving Spain and Italy a run for the money. A new crop for Georgia within the last decade, olives are starting to take off with about 7,000 acres of trees growing in south-to-mid-Georgia and along the coast, according to Georgia Olive Growers Association executive director, Vicki Hughes.
Curtis and Tracy Poling decided in 2014 to get into the olive game after doing extensive research that indicated the state would be a good environment in which to grow the crop. The trees they planted at Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm in Tattnall County bore their first harvest last fall. The Polings bottled the oil and submitted it to the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest and most prestigious quality contest. A couple of months ago, they found out their extra virgin olive oil won a 2020 silver award in their category, taking its place among the world’s best oils. https://www.georgiatrend.com/2020/07/06/georgia-olives-take-off/
American producers took home a record-high 56 Gold and 18 Silver Awards at the world's premier olive oil quality competition. Only Spanish and Italian producers received more.
In the News:
Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm made news with RFD channel- "RFD-TV with a broadcast to (52 million homes), RURAL RADIO Channel 147 on SiriusXM Radio (33 million units), The Cowboy Channel (42 million homes), and RFD-TV The Magazine. RMG networks are distributed worldwide by DBS, telco and cable systems, including DISH, DIRECTV®, Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Mediacom, Charter Spectrum, Suddenlink, Cox, and more than 600 independent rural cable systems. Exciting!
When thinking about the best olive oils in the world…places like Spain and Italy come to mind. However, there's now one operation in Georgia that can also make that claim and has the hardware to prove it. We traveled to Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm in Glennville to check out their award-winning product.
By Dal Cannady | May 18, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT - Updated May 19 at 12:00 PM
TATTNALL COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - If each tree at Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm had a flag from its home country, the grove would look like the United Nations.
Curtis and Tracy Poling brought plats here from around the world when they introduced olives in the family timber farm.
“We were living on St. Simons and Curtis said, ‘you know, we should move back to the farm.’ I said, ‘well, what would we do,’” Tracy Poling said.
Curtis researched ideas and learned how settlers planted olives here back in the 1500's.
“The Spanish came in and planted olive trees on Cumberland, and St. Simons all the way to South Carolina,” Curtis said.
Curtis said you can blame the British for Georgia's olive crop disappearing. When they colonized, they brought their diet with them and the Mediterranean touches went away until just a few years ago.
The Polings are one of only a dozen or so olive farms in Georgia. Last fall, they pressed their first olive harvest and bottled the oil. They submitted it to international competition and picked up a silver medal in their category. They say the award helps affirm their resolve to do something others haven't.
“To put a tree in the ground, watch it grow over the years and then produce fruit.”
That experience makes them Proud to Be Farmers.
Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.
Dal Cannady Bureau Chief of WOTC News spends a few hours here at the Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm
American producers took home a record-high 56 Gold and 18 Silver Awards at the world's premier olive oil quality competition. Only Spanish and Italian producers received more. Pamela Marvel, of Grumpy Goats Farm May. 18, 2020 By Daniel Dawson
While the vast majority of American winners at the NYIOOC were California producers, two Golds and three Silvers were awarded to olive oil makers from outside of the Golden State.
“This is our first entry, from our first press, which makes this Silver award even more impressive,” CEO Curtis Poling, who runs the farm with his wife, Tracy, said. “We are very excited that our extra virgin olive oil lived up to our expectations.”
Poling said that producing olive oil in Georgia brings with it a unique set of problems, ones not faced as often by producers in California or Texas.
“Georgia is still working on getting a larger part of the extra virgin olive oil market,” he said. “We have different soil and weather conditions. A particular challenge in South Georgia is dealing with the heat and humidity.”
However, Poling and his wife believe this year’s award will help put Georgia on the world olive oil map and bring them some international attention.
“I believe that this prestigious award will bring much desired attention to our brand Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm and the historic Woodpecker Trail Route (Highway 121), which is where we are located,” Poling said. https://www.oliveoiltimes.com/reviews/record-wins-for-american-producers-at-world-olive-oil-competition/81564
We are so excited! We were just announced as a Silver Award for the Best Olive Oil of the World by the NYIOOC Judges live a few minutes ago May 11 2020. Tasting Sensations -Ripe Olives Cocoa Almond Walnut Almond. We are humbled.
The 2019 harvest was challenging for many producers in many regions. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced?
Establishing best mix of nutrition, water and tree varietals mix is pioneering for us in Georgia US. There are many unknowns. We continue to add new varieties of trees. Balance of water has been a challenge considering our higher humidity. We keep close watch over the the orchard daily. We think history will be kind to our efforts.
How do you feel after winning at the NYIOOC? What does this mean for you and your company?
The efforts of our family past and present heritage on this land and our friends encouragements, local supporters continue to drive us. Seeing the trees bring fruit and win this prestigious best olive oil of worlds award is extremely humbling. This recognition provides the incentive to continue our expansions and market awareness of our product.
Fall 2018 issue of BoomAthens carried a piece about the northern part of Georgia’s historic Woodpecker Trail (Highway 121). Now we visit the 140-mile southern half of this scenic roadway that has been in continuous use since the early 1900s. In fact, the Woodpecker Trail is older than famed Route 66! This article highlights points of interest you can encounter along the way including the Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm.
We are proud and overjoyed to announce officially our arbequina (varietal) 2020-2021 Harvest olive oil test results are in. Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm's First Press exceptionally exceeds the certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) levels put forth by the IOOC & COOC for the required chemistry testing which are among the strictest requirements worldwide. https://www.cooc.com/certification-process/ & http://www.internationaloliveoil.org/estati…/…/222-standards Additionally our olive oil exceeded USDA standards for EVOO https://www.ams.usda.gov/…/olive-oil-and-olive-pomace-oil-g…
Woodpecker Trail is a Premium Extra Virgin Olive.
Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm is an 2020 international entry in the most prestigious olive oil ceremony in the world. We will announce our award level in May 2020. #olivoil #georgiagrown #iamgeorgiagrown #sustainability
REAL REVIEWS FROM FROM REAL SHOPPERS: " Your olive oil is soooooo amazing with such a taste that enhances all food. It is so good!!! Y’all are Rock Stars and thank you for making such a pristine product!!! "