Reflections Summer Issue | Volume 17, Number 3 - Page 36

PEOPLE and PLACES

Georgia Route 121 , also known as the Woodpecker Trail and one of the 50 most scenic drives in America , weaves its way from South Carolina to the Florida line , passing through gentle hills and acres of farmland .

As it passes through Glennville , it grazes the eastern edge of the Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm , a 6,000 tree olive grove that produces what a growing number of chefs , foodies , and judges believe may just be one of the best tasting extra virgin olive oils on the planet .

“ Producing great olive oil is not rocket science ,” says owner / farmer Curtis Poling , who planted the grove back in 2015 following a career in international business consulting . “ It is much more complicated than that !”
Poling shows me a stack of handwritten notes going back six years , detailing various parts per million of nutrients such as calcium , boron , and potassium that he ’ s been slowly dripping into the soil at the base of each and every tree . “ Olive trees are often called the ‘ tree of life ,’” he says . “ Just nibble on one of those leaves and you ’ ll cure whatever ails you . And each tree needs just the right amount of nutrients , sunlight , and water — and of course , well-drained sandy soils . Put all of that together , and you might just be able to grow a few good olives .”
Wait a minute . Well-drained sandy soils ? I thought we were in Georgia .
“ This part of Glennville ,” he says , gesturing towards the 300-acre farm that ’ s been in his wife Tracy Smith-Poling ' s family since the 1850s , “ sits in what used to be an ancient ocean bottom . North of Route 16 you ’ re looking at clay and metals in the soil ; south of the Florida line , it starts getting a little too hot for olives to thrive . But right here , close to the coast and nestled in this thin , shallow valley , everything comes together perfectly for growing olives and making olive oil .”
Poling set his first trees out in 2015 and pressed his first batch of oil in 2019 . “ When I tasted that first batch ,” he says , “ I was truly amazed . I could literally taste the sun , the grass , the breeze , gently followed by a hint of pepper . I immediately sent a sample off to the New York International Olive Oil Conference competition , and to my great satisfaction , the judges felt the same way I did . I earned a silver medal with my first cold pressing , and — maybe I ’ m a little biased — but I think I ’ ll do even better with this past year ’ s crop . It truly is the purest , creamiest , most balanced oil I have ever tasted .”

So where does one go to purchase the purest , creamiest , most balanced-tasting olive oil in the world , suitable for salads , cooking , drizzling over fish or warm bread , or just enjoying by the tablespoon ?

“ We do sell our oils at a few local stores ,” Poling says , “ but most of our customers find us online , and most buy from us directly . And it goes fast . Our customer base
34 RichmondHillRef lections . com