by Wayne Sherman
This year marks the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation’s (SBTHP) third Volunteer Day at the Santa Inés Mission Mills and the second time we have focused the day’s event around harvesting the crop. Last year we had wanted to plant trees but were forced to pick olives on the east side of Alamo Pintado creek due to an outbreak of the False Cinch Bug on the west side. As it turned out we picked 600 lbs of olives with under 20 volunteers just from the mature trees along the access road on the Rasmussen property. Although the forecast for this past November 19th was predicted as less than comfortable it actually turned out to be a perfect day for the harvest and we had over thirty volunteers show up at the sign-in tent eager to get started.
With the sign-in complete the volunteers braved the creek crossing and endured a short lecture titled; “The good, the bad and the ugly” to aid in their selection of the right type of olives to pick for table use. Gloves and buckets were then issued and the volunteers made their way to the top of the Rasmussen Grove to start the harvest. The bearing trees had been marked with white and red flags and once our crew of volunteer pickers selected a starting spot the 2011 Mission Mills Olive Harvest began.
Some folks chatted with neighbors while picking some picked in teams and others, determined to fill their buckets with the best quality olives, worked as loners sliding from tree to tree removing the good and discarding the bad and the ugly. With a pleasant warm sun shining down on our volunteers, an occasional billow of cloud floating by in an azure blue sky and the air full of good conversation the morning passed very quickly.
By the lunch hour our volunteers had cleared out the Rasmussen Grove, the Mill Grove and were half way across the Mission Grove when the noon hour came and the dinner bell was rung. Some of our volunteers had to be convinced they had done enough and to quit picking and join us for lunch at the Mills site. David Jackson our unofficial “2010 Picker of the Year” was in a dead heat with Rich Rojas for this year’s title and since it looked as if neither was about to give in I had to go and convince them to stop and join us. David, already covered in laurels from last year’s event, graciously exited the grove first and put down his picking bucket allowing Rich a short happy dance and the “2011 Picker of the Year “ title.
Although some of our volunteers had to leave early I had my first chance to talk with many of the participants as we sat on the south side of the Mills munching Subway sandwiches and drinking in the incredible view afforded by the Mills site. Among the happy gnashers were several students from the Anacapa School in Santa Barbara, some Santa Inez Valley residents and several SBTHP members making the journey from Santa Barbara and Ventura County. Several SBTHP staff, directors and their family members were also in attendance. The sun, the work, the food and incredible views all combined with warm conversation to make this a memorable day for all.
After lunch, as a special treat for our volunteers, an in depth tour of the Mills site with access to the buildings was given by SBTHP Archaeologist Mike Imwalle. Mike’s detailed knowledge of the site and its history along with the insightful questions from the Anacapa School students made this one of the best and most informative tours yet.
With our successful 2011 Volunteer Day at end and 150lbs of the best looking olives I have seen in some time in our buckets, in a year when very few olive trees in the Santa Inez Valley produced anything at all, our volunteers were given jars of Mission Mills Olives picked at last year’s event and warmly thanked for their kind assistance and honorable sense of community spirit.
Thank you Mission Mills volunteers, once again, you made this a great event! If you are interested in being notified about upcoming volunteer opportunities at the Mills, give us a call at (805) 965-0093.
Wayne Sherman is SBTHP’s Santa Inés Mission Mills Steward.