fat gold harvest

Two of my friends, Kathryn and Robin, just started an olive oil business this year, Fat Gold (peep that domain, yowsers). The farm is about 45 minutes east of town, in Sunol. It’s an area of rich rolling alluvium, with lots of small farms and other interesting things that there aren’t room for here in the city. Kathryn is a veteran of the olive oil industry as an award-winning miller. Robin is the author of 2.5 books (counting Scheme as a novella) and is his best self when slightly annoyed on an overloaded tractor.

So they’ve spent the last year working in the grove doing farm things and posting them on their instagram. The instagram feed is mostly Robin, so you get this great enthusiastic novice’s view of the whole enterprise, which has been good for me, a person that didn’t know anything about olives. It’s been interesting to follow along and see the process evolve as they get their footing.

Last weekend was the last harvest day, where a bunch of friends of Fat Gold gathered at the grove to harvest some olives and eat good food. While the amateurs worked at one end of the grove, professionals tackled the majority of the work at lightning speed. The amateurs’ process is simple: individual pickers have a belly bucket, and you kind of take a whole branch in one hand, and strip the olives off with the other, dumping them in the bucket. The professional method is basically to cover the ground under a tree in a mesh and shake off all the olives with sticks. It’s faster, but requires coordination and a lot more effort.

I helped with the harvest for about an hour, camera over my shoulder, but I sensed I wasn’t getting enough pictures, so I dropped off the bucket back by the barn and switched to just taking pictures, which was really enjoyable, the sort of work I’m made for. Which is to say, the participant observer; do some work, take some pictures, do some more work. I helped a bit with the gleaning, and certainly lifted my share of crates durning the weighing and transfer to the giant macrobins.

So this was last weekend, which is record time for me to get a blog post together these days. I can remember waking up with a hangover in someone else’s house and putting together a post, but that was almost a decade ago. As I was there to also photograph for my friends, I hustled and put together a loose edit for them. There is part of me that thinks of this as a client project, and not just personal documentary effort. It doesn’t make much difference in the way I work, but does affect the post-shooting timeline.

Posted by Matt on 2017-11-26 02:22:13 -0800