When 82-year-old Nan McEvoy set out to buy her breathtaking Petaluma
ranch in 1991 she wanted nothing more than a peaceful place where her
grandchildren could gather and play. "Now a days you simply can't
or I think you can't let a child sort of run free up and down the sidewalk.
And I thought they should have some country life," said McEvoy. She
never forgot the splendid summers she and her brother spent on their parents'
ranch in Oregon.
Now there seemed to be an opportunity to replicate that idyllic lifestyle
for her own family. But there was hitch; the ranch land she wanted to
buy was zoned for agriculture and agriculture only. So, the socialite
from the big city figured she'd plant a few olive trees and that would
be that. "Once I got into it, it was so exciting and so interesting
that I just kept saying more tree, more trees. Let's get some more trees,"
said McEvoy. No, little more than a decade later it's hard to see the
grandkids for the groves. McEvoy's 550-acre ranch is the largest producer
in the country of estate-grown, pressed olive oil, award-winning oil from
16 thousand organically grown trees. But would you really expect anything
less than the best from the woman who's done it all?
As the granddaughter of Chronicle co-founder M.H. de Young, she refused
to rest on family laurels and distinguished herself as a top reporter.
Ever the independent spirit, McEvoy also spent time as a pioneering Peace
Corps official and leading liberal activist. From 1981 to 1995 she was
chairperson of Chronicle Publishing until the admitted black sheep of
the family was ousted from the board. The time had come to trade in the
printing press for the olive oil press, but before branching out into
anything new, including farming, irrepressible McEvoy adheres to one credo.
"Always go to an expert of some sort before you start something new
and learn from them before you go," McEvoy said. One of those experts
is Italy's Maurizio Castelli. He was instrumental in importing the state-of-the
art Italian press, used to crush and mill the olives. He travels to California
several times a year to monitor the progress of McEvoy's operation and
advise her on how to make some of the world's best olive oil. The oil
has received kudos from top publications around the country, including
Gourmet Magazine. To find out where you can buy this liquid gold call
707-769-4122 or visit www.mcevoyranch.com.