HAWKINSVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Move over peaches and pecans, olives may soon start to grow into Georgia's number one cash crop.
Just ask Bob Krueger in Hawkinsville. He saw Georgia's potential about a year ago when he planted a farm of olive trees. More specifically, he's planting olive trees to produce olive oil.
"I've got 22 acres here, and I've got 13,200 trees planted here," Kruger says.
He planted them in June of 2012, which means it will be at least another two years before his olive trees start producing enough fruit to actually produce and sell.
Georgia, specifically areas further south in the state, are actually quite perfect for the olive tree to thrive. The trees need a hot and dry climate, which is exactly what Hawkinsville provides.
Kruger noticed a few years ago something unique about the United States' olive oil consumption. To start, he noticed that we consume nearly 74 million gallons of it every year, and of that, nearly 98% is imported.
"I noticed, gee whiz we're only producing two percent of our own consumption here. That's a tremendous market potential," Krueger said.
He also noticed the oil we consume, isn't a high quality oil that necessarily contains exactly what the label says it contains. His observation? He can create a locally grown, 100% natural product that will taste much better and actually contain what the label says.
"There's a demand for really good olive oil," Krueger explained. "Once you've tasted really good olive oil, you'll never go back to buying it off the shelf at the store again."
Krueger's farm is only the beginning he says. At this point, his crop is doing very well from what he can tell, and looks to continue to thrive for the next several years. If it does, he says once he can start to harvest and produce a product, he will continue to expand and plant and grow more olives. His ultimate goal is to make Georgia the premiere location on the East Coast, to the point where the state will be able to mill, bottle, and sell olive oil and control the market.