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Local Favorites Archive Photo
© Molly Smith
Queen Creek

Perry Rhea retired from the automotive industry 15 years ago, and when he and his wife, Brenda, visited Arizona, she had a bright idea. "Over dinner one night — after a little too much wine — my wife asked, 'What if we made olive oil in Arizona?' " Perry says. The rest is history.

What were the challenges of opening an olive mill in Arizona?
The original challenge was whether or not the olive trees would grow here. Then, it was learning how to press the olives. A lot of farmers can grow a lot of things, but the marketing of the oil and size of the farm — 100 acres — and making it a destination were challenging.

How well do olives do in a place known more for citrus and cotton?
Olives are desert plants, and they don't use a lot of water. They use a third of the water that an annual cotton plant would. And we don't have a lot of the Mediterranean issues, like olive flies. As long as we can water the olives, we're good.

The Mill offers tours of the groves, and you run a restaurant and a marketplace, too. Describe an average day.
We're a bit seasonal — a little slow in the summer. When we're harvesting in mid-October to mid-December, we're a bit hectic. We harvest for about two and a half months, and people can come in and actually see us make the oil and taste the oil. During the rest of the year, we just have a lot of visitors.

— Maggie Pingolt

Queen Creek Olive Mill is located at 25062 S. Meridian Road in Queen Creek. For more information, call 480-888-9290 or visit www.queencreek olivemill.com.

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