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September 17--  Some creative farmers in southwest Georgia have been growing olive trees, and after watching their progress for the past few years, Tommie Williams of Lyons is harvesting  his first crop of Toombs County olives.

{mosimage}"The oil is really good.  It's very tasty and I think it can compete with anybody's olive oil," Williams says.

"It's just a wonderful oil with lots of health qualities.  The greener the olive oil and the fresher the olive oil the better it is.  People are looking for unfiltered, green olive olive that's high in all the attributes that are healthy," he notes.

Three years ago Williams planted 3,200 trees on five-and-a-half acres near Lyons.  He's imported a centrifuge from Italy and installed it in the old Natsu restaurant building in Lyons which is the processing plant for the brand "Terra Dolce Georgia."{mosimage}

He's hoping olives can become a cash crop for area farmers, much like the Vidalia Onion.

"I used to work for Pinky McRae who was one of the first people to market what were Toombs County onions and he always called them Toombs County onions at the time.  Then it caught hold and lo and behold, it is what it is today.

"I think the olive has the potential.  It's not a perfect environment, but the trees grow very well.  They don't require a lot of insecticide, a little fungicide, but they are very hearty, evergreen trees.

"We think we've got the right climate and the right soil types.  All the things that make onions good seem to make olives good.  I'm going to send off some samples to those who know how good olive oil should taste and I'm hoping we'll have some good olive oil to market to the world," he said.

Farmers who are interested in growing olives are invited to a seminar hosted by Williams Saturday morning, September 21 at ten o'clock in the former Natsu building on Highway 292 West in Lyons.  He'll demonstrate how the olive oil is processed and host a field trip to the olive grove.