Local Produce Is a Growing Market

by RaeAnne Marsh

Queen Creek Olive MillQueen Creek Olive Mill recently expanded its olive grove “to support our new stores and the demand in Queen Creek,” says owner Perry Rea. Rea purchased the 4,000 new trees from a nursery near Yuma rather than out of state because they are hardened to the climate. He anticipates two years to first harvest, with full production at the third year. “We are investing in Arizona’s love of local, natural foods, and this will triple our current capacity in three years.”

Rea, who also presses olives for two growers in Yuma, emphasizes the importance of controlling all aspects — harvest, production, bottling and storage — to promote his product as Arizona olive oil. “We’re a boutique olive oil producer,” he notes. He has expanded distribution beyond the mill property in Queen Creek, opening retail stores in the Valley at Kierland Commons and Biltmore Fashion Park that also carry products from other local vendors, including Arizona wines. “It’s a fun way for locals who don’t want to make their way out to Queen Creek to purchase [our olive oil] in town,” he says.

Rea and his wife, Brenda, share “the passion of going from blossom to bottle,” and recently completed a course in Italy to become two of only 20 certified olive oil sommeliers in the world, and the only ones in Arizona.

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