Olive oil offers hope for Palestinian farmers

For thousands of years, olive groves have meant food, community and life in Palestine. The olive tree is viewed by many Palestinians as a symbol of connection to the land, because of their slow growth and longevity. For generations, farmers have tended to these trees, but olive farming in Palestine is now threatened. The olive oil industry still supports about 80,000 Palestinian families.
Jenny Farhat is the American-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She remembers the stories her father and grandparents would tell her about life underneath their ancient olive trees in the West Bank.

To escape the summer heat, entire farming families would eat, drink, sleep and even marry in the shade of of their expansive groves. But today many of those trees, including those once farmed by her own family, are gone as the result of the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Farhat (1985) hopes to sow some seeds of hope for those dwindling farms with a new import business she launched last month. Harvest Peace, an e-commerce business headquartered in Encinitas (California, USA), sells organic, fair-trade extra virgin olive oil made from olives grown and hand-pressed on a few hundred farms around the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Jenin in the West Bank.
The olive oil is sold online via Farhat's website harvestpeace.com at $25 for a 16-ounce bottle. Under an agreement with Canaan Fair Trade and the Palestine Fair Trade Association, Farhat said the farmers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their oil that is more than double what they were earning five years ago. Also, a portion of proceeds from each bottle sold goes to Trees for Life, which is planting and replanting olive trees in the region to help supplement the farmers’ income.

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