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Scripps Harvests Olive Trees in Pilot Sustainability Program

Members of the Scripps College community came together on Nov. 9 to harvest the campus’s olive trees in a pilot program. Although the trees have been a part of the campus since the college’s founding in 1926, the olives have never been utilized except for decoration of the various courtyards and groves. 

At the Scripps College Olive Tree Harvest, the fruit of the iconic trees was picked to make the first batch of Scripps College olive oil.

The movement toward sustainability and utilizing the olive trees for olive oil production was a team effort of Nancy Neiman Auerbach, a professor of politics and economics at Scripps, and Lola Trafecanty, Scripps’s Director of Grounds. They had originally planned to start this pilot program last year, but had to push the project back because of a bad harvest.

“Back in 2007, students in a Core II course, The Politics and Culture of Food, came up with a plan,” Auerbach said. “Since then, I’ve been working with Lola Trafecanty to try to make this a reality.”

Volunteers surrounded the groves of trees around Scripps’s Humanities building, equipped with gloves and shears for harvesting. Persimmon bread and other snacks were supplied by Tom Adkins, Director of Scripps Dining Services, to support the numerous volunteers who were willing to get a bit dirty to harvest olives.

“This year was a pilot program, so we only harvested thirty of the seventy trees on campus,” Auerbach said. "We had over eighty volunteers from all the colleges and the community participate in the harvest, which we hope to make an annual event.”

All of the harvested olives will be pressed by  an alumna’s family olive oil press, Regalo Olive Oil, in nearby Ojai, California, free of charge to the school, according to Scripps’s Facebook page. 

“We do plan to sell the oil, and the proceeds will go to a sustainability initiative yet to be specified,” Auerbach said. “The label was designed by a Scripps art student, Sarah Moos [SC ‘10], back in 2007.”

Scripps alumnae have reacted positively to the news of their alma mater’s trademark trees being packaged into a keepsake bottle of olive oil. Many have commented on the Scripps Facebook page, requesting orders of bottles to be sent around the world. 

Erin Lynch SC '99 was excited by the prospect of having her own bottle of Scripps College olive oil, and remembered “that very Scripps moment of getting olives in your shoes as you dash off to class.”

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