Vicki Myers said she has always shared a love for biblical history, especially biblical plants, with her husband, Bryan County Commissioner Steve Myers. They made a home in Richmond Hill nearly 12 years ago, but they also discovered a wealth of untended land deep in the heart of Bryan County, perfect for harvesting the ancient crops the couple had always dreamed of.
Now, when the Myers aren’t tending to their joint laundromat business, they can often be found between the rows of their 4,700 olive trees just down the road of Dunham Marsh. Olive farming isn’t a crop typically associated with Coastal Georgia, but even Vicki Myers herself can’t believe how quickly her beloved trees have taken to the coastal climate of Richmond Hill.
“I had read an article about a Georgia olive farm,” Myers said. “There were Georgia farmers who had been to Italy and wanted to test the process. Historically, we have grown olive trees in coastal Georgia — it has been done — but we certainly don’t have the exact climate they do in Italy because of the humidity.
“Even still, the temperature we do have is excellent for growing olives.”
Georgia Olive Farms, just north of Valdosta, has nearly perfected the art of harvesting and pressing olives into oil. And though the farm specializes in helping local farmers, such as the Myers, develop their own orchards, they also harvest more than 300 acres of olive trees on their own.
Still, Jason Shaw, president of Georgia Olive Farms, said he wouldn’t be surprised if more farmers planted olive trees in the future.
“We’ve got a whole network of growers and a bunch of tree orders coming in next year,” said Shaw. “You can’t plant too far below middle Florida because you won’t get the necessary freeze, and you can’t go too far up to middle Georgia because the winters are just a little too cold. We’re not going to have a good year every year. That’s why it helps to have the olive oil.”
Myers and her husband agree that at first, farming didn’t come naturally to them. In addition to managing his part of an Atlanta-based mortgage company and completing recent renovations on the Sawmill Plaza on Ford Avenue, it has fallen upon Steve Myers to maintain the upkeep of the couple’s eight acres of olive trees.
“We had no idea how much work it would be, and even with two tractors, the weeds have grown quite a bit,” Vicki Myers said. “But my husband has been wonderful about handling the farm itself, and I’m just amazed by the things he can do.”
Though the couple has already spent several years caring for their olive trees, they won’t see the fruits of their labor for at least another three. Once the trees are mature enough to produce olives, the couple said they plan to harvest the fruit and press them into olive oil that will be sold locally as a part of coastal Georgia’s rich farm-to-table movement.
Farmers markets throughout the Coastal Empire have already expressed an interest in purchasing from the Myers, but the couple hopes to one day see their product in Whole Foods and other big-name stores throughout the state.
“There’s such a demand for olive oil, it’s so healthy and it’s always in the top ten super foods. You can even make tea out of it,” Myers gushed.
Savannah Olive Farms, a name specifically chosen by Myers herself to capitalize on the city’s fascination with local and healthy foods, still has a few years to go before it matures into a fruit-bearing orchard. Still, she said she can’t wait to introduce her labor of love to stores throughout the region.
For now, the couple said they’ll do what every other Georgia farming couple has to do: “Just keep the weeds out!”