After buying the land where I planted my olive orchard in 1998, I took an agricultural tour of Egypt. I was lucky enough to connect with the agricultural department there and was allowed to tour many orchards all over Egypt. Many of the orchards were in areas where water was scarce and so I learned how they dealt with irrigation in areas where they did not have that much water or electricity. Also, on many of the farms, they propagated their own trees without greenhouses. They used boxes to make terrariums much like we made in grade school and set up a system in each that allowed them to keep the cuttings wet without a misting system. Their inventiveness in the face of low odds for success left me full of admiration and shaped my approach to growing olives.
One of the places I visited outside of Cairo was a state-of-the-art nursery that propagated olive trees. So, before I, I left purchased 1000 olive trees to be shipped to my ranch. The trees were shipped through Heathrow and there they stayed for 10 days on a dock without water. When they arrived at the custom station in Houston, they were in terrible shape. None survived. I placed another order to the Cairo nursery for 1000 more trees and asked them to ship through Amsterdam. They did, and when the trees arrived, they were absolutely beautiful. However, olive trees tend to have rather knotty roots and the inspector who had never seen an olive tree, decided that knots meant nematodes. So, they fumigated the whole lot and none survived.
Still determined to proceed, I ordered 450 trees from California. I flew out, loaded up a U-Haul and brought the trees back to Texas. That was the rocky beginning of my orchard.
The next trees I ordered where after an agricultural tour to Spain in 1999. I visited Agromillora Nursery in Catalonia, Spain. I purchased 1000 trees (Arbequina being the main variety). When they came they 10 inches and had small roots. That was an advantage because the customs inspector did not see knotty roots and waved me on through. The instructions Agromillora gave me were so good that I was able to grow them to 1-gallon size trees and lost only one.
After that rather discouraging experience, I decided Texans who were interested in purchasing olive trees should not have to go to such pains to buy them. So, I founded Sandy Oaks Olive Nursery.
It has been a joy to supply quality olive trees to those who want to start an orchard or just want a tree in their yard. Often the customers tell me a story about how they grew up in a part of the world where the trees are grown or how they had just visited a part of the world where they are grown and want a reminder of that visit. Olive trees are beautiful, and yes, they are truly magical.