This past weekend UGA Cortona held its annualVendemmia delle olive, or olive harvest. Tuscany is one of Italy’s main agricultural producers of olives, which are both a staple of Italian cuisine and an important economic export. Many olive tree groves cover the hills surrounding Cortona and the Chiana valley below the city.
On the UGA Cortona campus, both the Kehoe Center and Severini School have olive groves on their grounds, so every Fall semester the students, faculty, and staff harvest the olives. The 2017 vendemmia took place on a beautiful October weekend with sunny weather, perfect for picking. A large, finely-woven net was placed under each tree, and the harvesters used either their hands or small rakes to pull the olives off the branches and drop them on the net.
When a tree was finished, the pickers raised the edges of its net, gathered the olives in its center, and transferred them to a crate. The full crates will be delivered to a local frantoio, a mill where the olives are pressed into oil.
This summer all of Italy experienced a severe drought; no rain fell in Tuscany from May until early September, and it affected many of the trees. The UGA Cortona olive yield for 2017 was therefore less than in previous years, but still a respectable seven crates full of olives, weighing in at 160 kg (352 pounds).
After pressing, the oil will be bottled and given to those who earned it: the students, faculty, and staff who picked the olives!