Mission Olive Preservation Project | The Olive Oil Source

Mission Olive Preservation Project

Source: The Olive Oil Source
March 05, 2006

The Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration, and Education Project, Inc. announced its new board of directors:  Ron Chapman, of Sonoma, President; Dolores laGuardia, of Sunnyvale, Vice President; Nina Keene, of Sonoma, Treasurer; and Barbara Rouseff, of Sacramento, Secretary.


Organized eight years ago, the Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration, and Education Project (MOPREP) has propagated over 500 heritage Mission olives, grown from the only known remaining olive orchard planted by the Franciscan fathers and Chumash people over two-hundred years ago.


Using the same methods as the padres did to bring the olive trees from Spain to Baja to Alta California, each MOPREP tree is grown from truncheons or cuttings taken from the only known remaining Mission grove. (Truncheons are twelve to fourteen-inch logs propagated for several months in warm, wet sand until they sprout and can then be transplanted to pots or into the ground.)


Two-hundred years ago, most of the twenty-one missions that stretch the length of California, from San Francisco de Solano to San Diego de Alcalá,  included their own olive groves.  Today, only one grove remains. Rarely within the mission walls, olive trees were usually planted outside, closer to a consistent source of water. Unfortunately, between the time the Missions were secularized by the Mexican government in the 1830s and contemporary restoration efforts, which have been focused on the missions themselves not on their agricultural legacy, most of the original groves have died from neglect, were built over, or were simply lost and forgotten.


In 1998, Gabrielle Leonhard found the Mission La Purisima grove and organized MOPREP, a nonprofit project dedicated to finding and restoring any remaining Mission olive groves; propagating truncheons and cuttings from the La Purisima grove, from which over 1000 new trees have resulted; providing support and expertise in replanting Mission groves that, eventually, will allow each mission to produce its own sacramental and commercial oil; educating the community on the cultural, historical, agricultural, and nutritional importance of olive oil; and raising funds for MOPREP to continue its restoration efforts, to DNA and date test various groves as they are discovered and to develop educational materials.


In the last eight years, the Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration, and Education Project has authenticated the La Purisima grove and completed a structural pruning of its thirty-seven trees.


MOPREP’s other projects have included the restoration of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s Sonoma estate, Lachryma Montis (now a California state park) and the recovery and replanting of second and third generation groves at the Sonoma, San Jose, and Soledad missions.


MOPREP can ship trees anywhere in California, or trees can be purchased at a local fairs and festivals.  


More volunteers are always welcome, and MOPREP needs everyone’s support.  Contact the Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration, and Education Project through its website at http://www.missionolive.org or call Ron Chapman at 707-996-8984 or Dolores LaGuardia at 408-992-0136.