Olive branch for tourism in San Benito County

Customers sample Oils of Paicines' 100% organic extra virgin olive oils.

In 1999, Barbara Rever and Jerry Ginsburg decided to pick olives from the trees on their property and their neighbors as well (they had permission of course). Out of that came a bounty of 800 bottles of olive oil, and life hasn’t been the same since for the married couple of 40 years.
“We were shocked. We had no business, no employees and all of a sudden we had 800 bottles,” said Rever, who along with her husband owns Oils of Paicines, a business that has earned numerous awards for its Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “That’s when we decided we needed a business because we didn’t have 800 friends to give bottles to.”
Rever, Ginsburg and several other prominent olive oil producers both locally and throughout the state will have their products available to taste in the third annual San Benito Olive Festival at Bolado Park on Oct. 17. The one-day event goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features award-winning olive oils, artisanal foods, fine chocolates, cooking demonstrations and performances from local musicians and bands.
The V.I.P. area was a big hit at last year’s event; a $35 V.I.P. ticket includes access to a wine/beer craft tasting area with five tastes, along with a souvenir glass (general admission is $20 and children ages 6 to 12 get in for $10). Foodies will surely be happy with the cooking demonstrations at this year’s event, as renowned chefs Dorothy McNett and Mike Fisher are scheduled to appear.
Fisher is a Hollister native who trained as a chef in Paris and now owns his own business, Fisher’s Catering. McNett is a former Hollister resident who used to own a cookware store in town while also hosting her own TV show. She’ll be cooking up a variety of dishes including quinoa raisin cake, Cuban olive soup and summer salad deluxe.
Kathina Szeto, who is the owner of San Benito Bene in downtown Hollister and founder of the San Benito Olive Festival, turned her passion for culinary agriculture into an event that seems to be growing with each passing year. Szeto wanted an event that could celebrate the olive growers in the area and help community causes with festival proceeds.
“I feel the (olive) growers are the ones we want to put an extra spotlight on because they are so skillful and continuing as innovators,” said Szeto, who credited several people for making the Olive Festival a well-run event.
A little over three years ago, Szeto was in the culinary section in her store staring at numerous olive oil bottles along with the variety of gourmet spices and fruit preserves that are for sale in the store. From that moment, the idea to launch an Olive Festival in the county was born.
“Knowing there are amazing growers and award winners here, it just seemed like a natural celebration to blend it all together for a festival,” Szeto said.
In addition to Oils of Paicines, San Benito County features a number of other prominent olive growers, including Brigantino Olive Oil, Pietra Santa and the San Juan Valley Spice Co. For Rever and Ginsburg, being in the olive oil business is all about passion. Rever is a nephrologist (kidney specialist) and Ginsburg a cardiologist, and their professions support their olive-oil business.
“It’s not a profitable business, but we love it,” Rever said. “It’s really a wash (costs and revenue) because it’s very costly to pick olives and it’s very labor intensive in general.”
For Rever and Ginsburg, running an olive-oil business—along with R&G Land and Cattle Co., a working cattle ranch with a horse training facility and cozy housing accommodations on their 950-acre ranch in Paicines—offer a change-up to their hectic days in the medical field.
“In our (medical) practices we see a lot of very sick patients,” said Rever, who works mostly in Salinas but also runs nephrology clinics along with a private practice at Hazel Hawkins. “We have a lot of personal reward from working with patients, but this (olive-oil business) is kind of a lighter, less stressful type of business. It helps balance our lives.”
Not surprisingly, the Olive Festival is one of Rever’s favorite events of the year. It’s a chance to enjoy the camaraderie and showcase Oils of Paicines’ already well-known products, including their Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has already earned several gold medals in 2015 including at the California State Fair and Central Coast Olive Oil Competition along with a silver at the Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.
At last year’s Olive Festival, Ginsburg made a dip out of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and it turned out to be a big hit.
“People were going bonkers for his dip,” said Shelley Hartman, who is the business manager of Oils of Paicines. “The response we got last year was unbelievable.”
When Rever and Ginsburg bought the ranch 24 years ago, they never thought an olive-oil business would come out of it. There are now 1,300 olive trees on their property, and it brings the couple particular joy.
“It’s become a very exciting part of our life,” Rever said. “It’s hard to imagine a life without it.”

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