Why I Do What I Do
Theo Williams, organic olive farmer
Driving by fields of olive trees and a co-op olive-oil press during her 1993 honeymoon in California’s Santa Barbara wine country, Theo Williams “just clicked” on an idea to start her own organic olive farm. More than 2,000 imported Greek Koroneiki and Spanish mission/Manzanilla olive trees later, the first-generation Greek American, along with her husband, Joel, launched Global Gardens in 1998 with three products—olive oil, raspberry vinegar, and spicy organic walnuts. Today the Global Gardens ranch based in Santa Barbara County offers Southern California’s first certified-organic, estate-grown extra-virgin olive oil, as well as an impressive assortment of other organic olive-oil products, all the while maintaining a commitment to sustainable agriculture and reusable and recyclable packaging.
How did you come up with the Global Gardens name?
A. The name came from our love for global travel, gardening, and the resulting flavors that [we encountered] from these endeavors. Our growing mission is to bring more global flavors into our product line and to show people how to combine these flavors in unique ways while continuing to offer easy-to-use products.
Is it difficult to run a company that uses ecologically sound practices?
A. Locally, our Southern California landfills are overflowing, so we make all of our packaging reusable in the home kitchen. Everything we use, pack with, and sell is either reusable or recyclable. It’s an ongoing challenge, and it’s more expensive than conventional disposable packaging, but we feel it’s important to remind our employees and customers constantly to be resourceful. On a business level, we donate a growing portion of our company revenue to education and literacy projects both here and in Nepal.
What’s your favorite way to eat olive oil?
A. On a loaf of freshly baked bread. We don’t use butter anymore; instead, we use olive oil for grilled-cheese sandwiches, toast, baking—everything but chocolate cake or brownies.