Bell Carter Foods in Corning is bustling. The olive plant is the largest ripe olive producer in the world. The company processes 52,000 tons of olives a year on average, keeping it's 400 employees hard at work. But this years olive crops are falling a bit short thanks to mother nature. " Weather we're having now can offset next years harvest, weather we had last November can offset this years harvest", said Tim Carter, Bell Carter's chief operating officer.
Bell Carter stays busy despite the crop size, thanks to plenty of reserves, many of which stem from 2010's record breaking harvest of more than 160-thousand tons. But freezing temps last winter and rains in the spring during bloom may be partly to blame for this years lower crop prediction of 25,000 32,000 tons, but olive growers say there's always a silver lining. " This will be a shorter crop, but sizing is good which means the value of the fruit will be higher", said Carter.
Olive farmers do say the recent rains are good for the crop, and could help the fruit on the trees grow even larger before harvested, which should wrap up in mid November. But a problem farmers are facing now, is finding workers to pick the fruit. " The migrant workers, once they hear that there's a shorter crop in an area, they have a tendency to go somewhere else", said Corning olive farmer Scott Patton.
Olives bring in on average a thousand dollars per ton, and while this years harvest won't be as plentiful as last's, farmers say new branch growth on trees and large fruit size are all indicators that next years crops will be even better. " We are as farmers, we're eternal optimists"