Tiber Canyon Ranch
An Indian cucumber plant caught the eye of Will Carlton as he took me around his humble 50-acre ranch in the Eucalyptus trees. The winding, green stem made its way through a piece of crafted metal, one of Will’s many artistic projects. The root was a small gem in the ancient dune soil of Will’s property, similar to the grove of olive trees that were planted 14 years ago by an ambitious couple hoping to produce healthful olive oil in Tiber Canyon from the nutrient-deficient soil it had to offer.
The 50 acre property that is now the home to Tiber Canyon Ranch, about 8 miles south of San Luis Obispo proper, was at one point home to many oil wells that produced for the whistle stop down in Price Canyon. Will told me, “We’ve brought a kinder, gentler oil to the land.” Without a doubt this kinder, gentler oil has taken over. With over 1500 olive trees grown in the traditional Mediterranean style, Will and Chris produce around 2 tons of olive oil each year. Will has taken this plot of land and transformed it into a plentiful, crop-producing oasis. “The ranch tells me what to do,” he says, explaining that he listens to the land and does not try to manipulate it to do something it was not meant to do, “We’ve taken what was un-farmable and done something with it.” Sustainability and environmental quality are of the utmost importance to Will and Chris, so they do their best to work with the land. As avid artists and growers, Will Carlton and Chris Anderson use sustainable practices to make quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a blend of olives from select Italian varietals.
As you enter Tiber Canyon Ranch and follow the signs directing you to the “Festivities,” metal artwork decorates the pathway around the barn. When you reach the opposite side of the barn, you find yourself in a quiet little refuge. The beautiful barn, decorated with a hand-crafted balcony railing towers over you, and the rejuvenating aroma of eucalyptus trees engulfs you. This area is available for wedding ceremonies as the large area can accommodate a large group of people and features a beautiful view. The barn has been the site of Will and Chris’s glass-blowing hobby since the barn was built 16 years ago. Will, a Cal Poly grad, got into glass blowing while he was working on his degree in Architecture and has made it a lifetime hobby. Their passion for art is demonstrated through their annual craft fair. Each year, they hold a huge event where they feature over 30 artists and 5 food purveyors. Will also does a glass blowing demonstration for the people who attend.
Their olive oil is grown in the traditional Mediterranean style. The trees on the ranch are of the Tuscan varietals: leccino, frantoio, pendolino, and coratina. These varietals come together at a specific ratio that Will and Chris have perfected to produce a “field blend” oil. At harvest, the olives are all picked and crushed at the same time and blended together. Tiber Canyon is well-known for their citrus-flavored oils, but classic Extra Virgin is their forte.
Tiber Canyon also offers oils with custom labels to be used as wedding favors. As we sat watching the sunset from his trusty golf cart overlooking the olive trees, Will emphasized to me that local olive oil is much better quality than many of the imported oils because the imported ones sometimes incorporate a different part of the oil called the pomace, which does not have the same health benefits as the rest of the oil.
Tiber Canyon olive oil recently received a Good Foods Award for 2013. The Good Foods Awards recognize people who make food that is delicious and nourishing, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions. Will attended the ceremony in San Francisco in January wearing a tuxedo jacket with blue jeans, wanting to represent his true nature. It was a gathering of people dedicated to good food produced locally in a way that strives for environmental and social sustainability, which truly was an incredible experience for him. Coming into contact with so many people with similar interests and creative ideas was refreshing and fun for Will and Chris. Tiber Canyon has the California Olive Oil Council Seal of Certification, which means their oil has gone through a series of tests and has been categorized with the healthiest and tastiest olive oils on the market.
Tiber Canyon’s family-oriented atmosphere fuels its success and productivity. At harvest time, over one hundred of Will and Chris’s family and friends head out to the ranch to help with the olive picking. Aside from the craft fair and wedding ceremonies, this is one of Tiber Canyon’s biggest events of the year. They provide a small breakfast –fuel for the picking– a medium sized lunch, and a huge feast for dinner and concert to celebrate a hard day’s work.
Within 24 hours, the olives are taken to a mill in Creston where they are expertly crushed and the oil is separated from the solid matter and vegetable water that naturally occur in olives. The oil is stored in stainless steel containers and is bottled when needed throughout the year to ensure freshness.
Tiber Canyon olive oil can be found online. It can also be found at the Crushed Grape, Farm Supply, and seasonally at Jack Creek Farm on Highway 46 West in North County. They are open by appointment, but can sometimes accommodate last-minute visits. Just be sure you call and check that the couple is around before you head out there! Will and Chris are currently getting ready to move into their new home atop the hill looking over one of the olive tree fields. After 12 years of construction, they are quite ready to make the move from their small home above the barn. They keep busy with their new grandson and the many activities on their farm. Pay them a visit at the ranch! Or, visit their website at tibercanyon.com.