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September 28, 2009 5:28 PM

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Italia Imported

Nudo Olive Oil Fashion isn't Italy's only game right now. The country's also all about the culinary arts, but, as it has gone with fashion, the global economic downturn has hit Italy's agriculture industry hard. One company is fighting...

Nudo Olive Oil
Fashion isn't Italy's only game right now. The country's also all about the culinary arts, but, as it has gone with fashion, the global economic downturn has hit Italy's agriculture industry hard.

One company is fighting back, one tree at a time. Nudo's "Adopt an Olive Tree" program is exactly as it sounds. For $150 a year, foodies Adopt an Olive Tree in the Le Marche region, follow its progress for a year and then reap its benefits: four 500-ml. tin of extra virgin olive oil pressed from their tree in the spring and three 250-ml. tins of flavored extra virgin olive oil (i.e. lemon, chili and mandarin) the following fall.

Husband-and-wife founders Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibbs embarked on the venture four years ago when they said arrivederci to their lives as television executives in Los Angeles to set up camp at an abandoned olive grove nestled in Italy's countryside.

Unfortunately, the grove's 2,514 olive trees were by no means in tip-top shape. "The grove had been abandoned for about eight years," Gibbs says. "The trees were overgrown and undernourished. It had been overtaken with brambles."

As two agro amateurs, the couple had their work cut out for them. After "reading every book [they] could find on olive farming written in English" and enrolling in a four-day pruning workshop, they were ready to refurbish. "It took a couple of years, lots of backbreaking work and a hell of a lot of determination to make it what it is today," Gibbs said. "And we have the bramble scars to prove it."

Anyone who's been to a supermarket lately can tell you the olive oil market is saturated. But Gibbs believes that his organic product, with its focus on origin, will outlast the others. "There is no way that you can make genuinely Italian, truly extra virgin olive oil [for a few dollars per liter]. Not many people know this, but for it to be called 'Italian,' it just has to be bottled in Italy," he says. "The oil and the olives can come from anywhere." To adopt a tree, go to nudo-italia.co.
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