It’s not too hard to find a free factory tour where you can see candy being made, teddy bears being stuffed or ice cream being blended and flavored.
But olives? Now there’s something you don’t get up close and personal to every day.
That’s why the free tour at the family-owned Graber Olive House is worth a trip. And while certainly the main focus is on olives, the location is attractive and historic in several ways.
Clifford C. Graber purchased the Ontario, California land in 1892 and quickly decided he’d use it to cure, prepare and can a food delicacy he enjoyed – olives. He also owned land which has since expanded to an 80-acre farm where the actual olive trees are located. He first grew a small crop, cured several barrels at the Olive House location, and gave them to friends and family. They were so well-received that he got requests for more.
In 1894 the company opened to the public and the Spanish hacienda estate and olive processing site still stands today, the oldest olive packer in California.
It’s easy to pass by the property because it’s tucked back behind trees in a residential area. You’d think it’s a private estate until at closer look the long driveway and so-tasteful-it’s-almost-overlooked sign beckon visitors to enter.
The grounds are beautiful and open for sitting or enjoying a snack purchased on site. There’s a small museum that’s a history lesson in itself. It boasts a nice collection of 100+-year-old items including farm equipment, cash registers, sewing machines and olive grading machines.
But the tours are the main focus and they’re available every hour upon request, throughout the year.
Visit during the Fall season (mid-October through December) for the most action, however. The sorting, grading and canning is in full swing during this time.
Graber olives, tour leaders explain, are unique because they’re allowed to tree ripen, unlike other olives on the market. This gives them a distinctive, nutlike flavor and accounts for their tenderness.
Because they mature on the tree before being picked and canned, they are more pure and need no additives, avoiding the sometimes acidic taste of other olives.
It’s guaranteed visitors have never seen so many olives in one place and the number of cans and labels rival any other tour, too. Plus – just how do you grade an olive?
The tour ends (don’t they all?) near the gift shop. But this shop is really worth exploring. For one thing, free samples abound. A word of caution: Don’t chomp down unaware. All Grabe olives have pits because of their ripeness. To pit them would potentially break them.
Though olives are their specialty, the shop offers a pleasing array of dried fruits, nuts and candies, as well as soup mixes and beverages. And again — free samples.
Graber Olive House is located at 315 E. 4th Street in Ontario, just minutes from the airport and downtown area. They’re open Monday – Saturday from 9-5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 9:30 – 6 p.m.
Call 800-996-5483 for more details or visit www.graberolives.com.