The Richest Gift: Olive Oil

November 26th, 2020 - 8:05am

Due to the Bay Area's Regional Stay Home Order, COM's Olive Oil Sale will be postponed until the beginning of the new year. Please check for updates. Thank you!

Maybe it’s the images of carefully-tended, sun-bathed orchards that immediately come to mind; or maybe it’s the decades of research that backs the potent health-benefits of this miracle fruit; but olives and olive oil have earned something of a je nais se quoi status in the world of miracle health foods.

Perhaps these are the reasons why the College of Marin’s (COM) annual olive oil sale is so popular. Every December, the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden, located at COM’s Indian Valley Campus (IVC) in Novato, hosts a sale of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (evoo), harvested from the surrounding verdant five acres of land. Located in the ripe Mediterranean-like climate of northern Bay Area, the farm is home to 70 trees of seven varieties of Tuscan blend olives. The olives are harvested by hand which is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Once the olives are amassed, they are taken to a certified organic mill and pressed into extra virgin olive oil with no heat or solvents used in the extraction.

These small-batch bottles of evoo will be for sale come early December, and they will directly benefit COM’s agricultural operation. The bushes, donated 10 years ago by the famed McEvoy Ranch, produced 1,200 pounds last year. This year’s harvest produced 1070 pounds which, when pressed, comes out to 20 gallons of evoo to sell. It is expected to sell quickly.

This olive oil sale will complement the farm’s annual tremendously successful plant sales which it hosts every spring and late summer. With more people at home turning to gardening due to COVID-19, this year’s plant sales were “three times” the size of previous years, according to farm manager Johnny Campbell. The olive harvest and oil sale held every December round out the year at the farm.

This is Campbell's fourth olive harvest. This year, to make it a safer experience, Campbell and his team of student workers have implemented an online ordering system. Those who are interested in purchasing evoo can visit the farm’s website at, select their order and schedule a pick-up time. Once their order is ready, the customer drives by to pick up and pay for their order curbside. This process was perfected during the COM’s plant sales and was incredibly easy for the consumer, according to Diane Henderson Glischinski, Board Chair of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce.

“I was so impressed that COM and Johnny Campbell and his team didn't miss a beat.” Henderson said. “None of us anticipated being in the world we're in now. I was amazed with how seamless it was.”

COM’s Dean of Workforce Development, Alina Varona, agrees. “What Johnny Campbell and the dedicated farm team have been able to accomplish is remarkable, in the midst of a global pandemic and a time of deep uncertainty, no less. These events continue to serve as a real bright spot for the community and a testament to College of Marin’s dedication to the farm as a living laboratory. It—and innovative partnerships with The Cultural Conservancy and Nugget Market—remain a real source of pride for the Indian Valley Campus and the District. I am so thrilled that through this good work we continue to serve as our community’s college.”

Students studying organic farming typically work here on the farm, which includes a greenhouse, shade house and additional areas for plant propagation. Currently, twenty students are learning how to grow fruits and vegetables in COM’s Organic Farming course – however due to COVID-19, students this year are taking the course online and are not required to help with the harvest.

Seven work-study students chose to assist Campbell with the harvest this year since their other work study positions were changed or eliminated because of the pandemic. Thankfully, harvesting olives and taking care of the farm allows for plenty of outside and physically distanced activities during this time.

COM work-study student Noah Brown has spent the last semester working at the farm at IVC. Although he attended college previously, he left because school was not the right fit for him. He’s recently returned, and with the time he’s spent working on the farm, Brown said he feels like he has finally found his niche. He now wants to double major in communications and agricultural landscaping.

"Being on the farm and learning about agriculture has been one of the best things I've experienced all year,” Brown said. “I absolutely love working with all my co-workers and being around so many organic fruits and vegetables. The wildlife, especially the occasional rabbit, has also been wonderful to experience."

Brown said he hopes to transfer in Fall 2022 to The University of Georgia, Athens, or Cal Poly State University.

For more information on the farm at COM’s IVC and its olive oil sale or plant sales, please visit

For more information about COM’s Agricultural program, please visit