Biola has struck oil — olive oil, that is.
For the first time in decades, trees in Biola’s historic olive grove are being used to produce olive oil, thanks to the efforts of Biola parents Karen and Gordon Wiebe, co-owners of Bari Olive Oil Co. In November, nearly 100 students and staff helped harvest the olives by shaking branches and holding tarps to collect the olives before they were trucked to Bakersfield with the Wiebes to be pressed.
The grove, once part of Andrew McNally’s estate (of Rand McNally publishing fame), was known to produce the best olive oil in the nation in the 1800s. Now, Biola has set out to reclaim La Mirada’s claim to fame.
“This year, because we’re a little late, we will get about two gallons,” said Gordon, who plans to come back and help produce more olive oil this fall. “There is potential for about 100 gallons, but this is a learning experience for everybody, how to pick it, what we need to do to make it happen for next year.”
While the oil was being produced, teams of art students got in on a competition to design the bottle label for the oil. The design that won represents Biola’s historical relationship with olive oil.
“Our inspiration for the design really needed not to look any further than Biola’s story,” said senior John Choura, one of the winning team’s designers. “This being the transition from downtown Los Angeles to the olive-grove-covered landscape of La Mirada, which is the hallmark of the olive oil itself.”
But don’t expect to use Biola’s olive oil in your recipes any time soon; only about 100 small bottles and four large bottles were produced from this year’s harvest. However, in future years with larger harvests, the oil may eventually be sold in the Biola bookstore or be auctioned off to raise money for the university.