Mia Farago-Iwamasa ‘17

Staff Writer

The History of the Olive Oil Harvest

The story of the famous Scripps Olive Oil starts at the very beginning of the college’s history. Olive trees have been a central part of Scripps’ campus since its founding in 1926. In the 1930s, the Olive Grove was planted in the very heart of campus where it stayed untouched for over 30 years. However, in the 1960s, the trees were threatened by a proposal to turn that area of campus into the Bette Cree Edwards Humanities building. The ‘60s were not a good time to propose tearing down trees though, as social and environmental activism was thriving, especially on college campuses. This decision was thus not popular with students or alumni, and in 1968, they “took to the trees” to protest. After a heated standoff between the administration and the students, 60 trees were gingerly scooped up and placed in boxes during construction of the Humanities building. They were then re- planted in and around the building, where we see them thriving today.

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In 2007, a new Core II class, “The Politics and Culture of Food,” taught by Professor Nancy Neiman Auerach, proposed harvesting the edible plants on campus to make fruit jam and olive oil. This idea led to a campus wide movement to raise money for sustainable initiatives by selling the food we produce right here on campus. However, it was not until 2012, that students, faculty and staff came together for the first ever olive oil harvest.

This inaugural day of community building, conversation and bonding produced over 1,500 pounds of olives from 35 Mission olive trees. These ripe fruits were shipped to an alumni’s family grove in Ojai, where they were pressed into more than 700 8-oz bottles of oil. Each bottle was adorned with a student designed label. However, it was what was the oil inside that became so highly prized. Scripps’ olive oil won “Best of Show” in its class at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition in Pomona that year, receiving extremely high reviews from all 12 expert judges. The revenue produced funded Scripps’ first Sustainability Fellow, a part-time staff member solely committed to advancing sustainable efforts at Scripps, and the social enterprise “Fallen Fruit from Rising Women,” who make local jam.

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In 2013, this momentous event became an annual one, as the Scripps community again came together to produce its fabulous olive oil. This oil was again entered into the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and received another award, this time a Silver Medal, for its high quality.

Unfortunately, in 2014, the California drought hindered the olive trees’ production and there were not enough olives for a harvest. This year, the Sustainability Fellow position was paid or with the president’s discretionary funds  but the role was in danger of being lost. While Scripps was able to harvest again in 2015, last year’s oil sales barely broken even with the production cost.

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This Year’s Olive Oil

This year Scripps has changed its pressing partner to the Temecula Olive Oil Company, a smaller and more local operation. Thom Curry, one of the co-founders, came to campus to help harvest and provide information about the process and olive oil making business. It was the first year a luncheon was held where volunteers could taste the previous year’s olive oil. Scripps is hoping to use the revenue from these sales to again fund the essential Sustainability Fellow position.

If you didn’t get a chance to come join the community and support our sustainable efforts, please contact Mia Farago-Iwamasa. There may be another chance thread some olives this fall, since our trees were so productive this year.

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What Other Sources of Funding Support

Sustainability Initiatives on Campus?

It is a big misconception that funding for sustainability projects comes from the same money the college uses for student scholarships. In reality, the funding for individual projects comes from a variety of other sources. For example, the LEED Silver features of New Hall were incorporated into the project budget for the whole building,

LED lights and Elkay fountains are paid for by the facilities budget and water conservation, and outdoor sustainability is covered by the grounds department and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California rebates. Donor funds also contribute substantially to specific projects, such as the planned replacement of the Seal Court fountain system with an Elkay refillable station this winter break.

However, there is no set aside money or budget for environmental sustainability efforts, which is one reason it is so hard and takes so long to enact change. The only transformations and funding that has been put toward sustainability is because of the students and staff who work tirelessly and passionately to advocate for these issues.

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These amazingly devoted individuals include Lola Trafecanty, Director of grounds, Crystal Weintrub, current Sustainability Fellow, and the members of the Scripps Environmental Club and Sustainability Committee.

To get more involved and help us enact change and spark discussion at Scripps, please email Mia Farago-Iwamasa at