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Extreme Weather Is Wreaking Havoc on Olive Oil Production


AfterAfter a brutal frost swept through Le Castella last year, many of the olive trees in the small Calabrian town didn’t produce a single fruit. Giuseppe Morisani, co-founder of the Calabrian olive oil company EXAU , was luckier than some, able to harvest enough olives to press, bottle, and sell as oil. But his neighbors didn’t harvest any. “Literally nothing. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. Unlike Morisani, most of these neighbors don’t produce oil as a source of income: They’re doctors, lawyers, teachers. But growing olives — then pressing them, using the buttery-rich juice to cook and preserve all year — is a central part of life, sewn into the cultural fabric of this place. As the climate changes, the culture of the town is changing, too.

“It’s not just ‘farming’ anymore,” says Morisani, who runs EXAU with his wife and co-founder, Skyler Mapes. Morisani grew up where he and Mapes now produce their oil, and he has watched many of his neighbors become discouraged by the recent challenges of keeping their olive trees alive. “A farmer can’t just put an olive plant in the soil and wait until it grows anymore.”

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