Olive Days in Fallbrook

“The finest olives I have ever tasted I ate at the San Diego Mission; and the olives of this State, when carefully pickled, are far superior to those we get from France or Spain.”

Journalist Charles Nordhoff, wrote those words in his book, California: A Book for Travellers and Settlers, published in 1873.

Nordhoff was on to something.

“During the period 1913-1915 olives were the largest cash crop in the Fallbrook area,” wrote the late Don Rivers of the Fallbrook Historical Society in a 1998 essay which can be found in the society’s archives.

One of the early centers of olive production in the Fallbrook area was the Red Mountain Ranch, which was located just northeast of Fallbrook at the top end of Live Oak Canyon. Here’s a photo of the ranch house and surrounding groves in 1892:

Red Mountain 1892 Barker-Kelsey collection

Photo credit Fallbrook Historical Society.

The ranch harvested 150 tons of olives in 1910, according to an article in the March 1911 issue of the newspaper Fallbrook Enterprise.

By the middle of the twentieth century the olive would be eclipsed in local importance by citrus and avocados. Today scattered groves of olives remain, along with street names like Olive Hill Road and Olive Avenue, as reminders of Fallbrook’s olive days.

In addition to the Nordhoff book, sources for this post included the archives of the Fallbrook Historical Society.

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