Beware of Beginning Olive Growers

One of the occupational hazards of working in a government agriculture office is the increased likelihood of encountering, if not being cornered and trapped by, a beginning olive grower. At our ag center, every agent who provides some form of government-sanctioned farming assistance–from the Farm Service Agency to Cooperative Extension, NCDA, Soil and Water District, and even the Forest Service (olives growing on trees)–has been ambushed once or twice by our local would-be olive grower, a serial ambusher whose ability to hold hostages through the spoken word is downright frightening. 

At first sight of his car pulling into the parking lot, the ag center reverberates with the sound of office doors closing and the clatter of government employees diving under desks, only to be followed by a hushed silence as the olive grower traverses the hallway in search of a victim to waylay. Sometimes a benevolent soul, usually a career public servant seeking to prank a new hire, will assist the olive grower in his search for the best employee to answer olive-growing questions. 

One morning, as a new soil conservationist, nary had I yet leaned back in my chair and kicked up my boots before the local field crop agent, who was set to retire in two weeks, guided the olive grower into my office. “Good morning, Stephen,” said the agent, “I’d like to introduce you to Tyler Wilson. He wants to start growing olives and has a few questions.”

To be honest, I was caught by surprise, completely unprepared for any discussion on olives. Had I had time to open my mouth, I would have admitted I knew little about olive culture, only enough to doubt they would grow well in our climate and soils. Thankfully, I didn’t betray my ignorance because I was quickly informed that the foothills of North Carolina was a prime olive-growing region. Tyler Wilson told me so himself. 

Tyler told me a lot. He talked non-stop for two hours about olives and was possibly the foremost expert in the olive-growing industry, despite the fact that he had yet to plant his first olive tree. Eventually, I feigned the symptoms of food poisoning and politely declined Tyler’s offer to drive me to the hospital to continue our chat. The last time I saw Tyler in the ag center, he was interrogating our janitor about the best sanitation practices to prevent disease in olive orchards. And judging by our janitor’s dazed expression, I would say Tyler’s long-winded discussions about olives should probably be outlawed by the Geneva Convention

16 thoughts on “Beware of Beginning Olive Growers

  1. Had he completed a one-minute search of the internet, he would have found

    Tyler would have discovered that the best place to grow olives is the mediterranean. Generally, olive trees like warm, dry climates with mild winters and hot summers. The two times I lived in North Carolina, the foothills weren’t dry nor the winters mild.

    It doesn’t make me an expert, but your great post did make me laugh.

  2. I kinda feel for Tyler. In my first flush of enthusiasm for beekeeping, my wife unkindly and in totally unjustified fashion reprimanded me for being a bee bore, droning on (ouch!) for Far. Too. Long. about bees and their fascinating lives.

    Nowadays, I’m more like ‘We keep bees. Yeah, they’re doing fine. Now let me tell you some fascinating facts about banjos …’

      1. I was the same with all my new farming pursuits. I’d go through spells were all I could do is scheme and think up new farming pursuits and tell my wife all about them. Unfortunately, farming is a lot harder in practice than it is in theory.

    1. Yeah, I’m the same way now too. If the person really seems interested in bees, I can still drone on, but, strangely, I’ve learned that most people don’t want a multi-hour lecture on bee biology.

      1. I try really hard to not go on about our hives, but still find it difficult o not whip out my phone to show photos of our queen and all our busy workers. ❤️ our bees.

  3. I feel for Tyler, too. Maybe y’all could chip in and send him to service to some nice olive groves in Spain? I tried olives here in TX, supposedly they can grow around here and I LOVE olives, had a tree in AZ and cured them myself. Over several years I tried 6 different varieties, finally I got one to live the summer and winter after excessive babying. Then the following spring a pig dug it up in one nudge. 🙁

  4. I do not feel for Tyler, maybe I’m heartless but I have encountered several of these people in my life that are completely oblivious to the torture they are inflicting on their hostages with their non-stop blather. They are impossible to escape and I appreciate the tip about feigning food poisoning. In the past I usually have reverted to faking I had a text by looking at my phone and saying, “Oh no! I have to run home, the dog is on fire!” As usual, great post, Sir!

  5. Tyler’s compulsion to hold forth about something he does not actually do reminds me of a quote attributed to Lao Tsu:

    «Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.»

    It’s been argued that “brag” would be much better than the popular “speak” for translating what Lao Tsu actually wrote, tho a good translation would not have the same stoner appeal. Hmmm. I’d guess the growing conditions in NC are more congenial for marijuana than for olives.

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