The Winters FFA upheld its gold standard of excellence recently in the California State Fair olive oil competition on May 18. Although it was the program’s first batch of olive oil that was entered, it was good enough to win gold and bolster the renown of the small town it was produced.
The working farm at the Winters High School ag site produces everything from pumpkins to mandarins to olives. In a serendipitous collaboration with Pat and Chris Calvert from Ciarlo Fruit & Nut — ag teacher Donnie Whitworth and his students were able to transform their harvest of olives into a finished bottled product.
While Whitworth simply wanted to put the golden goo in mason jars and distribute them, the Calverts helped him aim at higher aspirations for the certified, extra-virgin olive oil.
After swirling, sniffing and tasting, the Winters FFA’s Coratina olive oil was judged and deemed undeniably gold caliber.
“Twelve certified sensory analyst judges look for defects or the positive characteristics of the oil. So, out of the 117 entries, 17 bronze medals were given for just extra virgin olive oil, 26 silver medals were given and 30 gold medals were awarded, and the FFA kids got one of those 30 golds,” said Pat Calvert. “To be the first year entering, this is huge. It’s a really big deal. Also, there aren’t many producers that will make Coratina (the Winters FFA entry) because it’s an unusual variety. It was just a really, really good oil and a really good example of what Coratina olive oil should taste like. Out of the nine years we’ve been doing this, I’ve not heard of an FFA group doing anything like this.”
Former educators themselves, the Calverts have simply enjoyed being around the WHS students and watching their interest and excitement grow through every step of the process. For Whitworth, he’s nothing short of appreciative of the Calvert’s assistance, advocation and advertisement of WHS and its olive oil throughout the experience. As thankful as he is for the Calverts, however, it’s the WHS students and their effort Whitworth lauds the most.
“It’s kind of scary because now we have to maintain at least getting a medal every year. But seriously, it’s very exciting and maybe I and the students don’t understand what an achievement this is considering the time and effort companies and other small farms put in to get to this point,” said Whitworth. “To be honest, we were just excited to make some oil. Chris and Pat came to our FFA banquet at the end of the year and they actually announced there that we received gold.”
From the top-notch leadership of the WHS ag department staff to the work ethic of the students and assistance from selfless outside parties, there’s a reason the Winters FFA program can’t shake its habit of winning. The California State Fair Olive Oil Competition, of course, just adds to it all. The winning olive oil is available at Pacific Ace Hardware and by reaching out to Whitworth at email@example.com.