The book of Genesis tells of Noah sending out a dove to look for land after the great flood. A bird returns holding an olive leaf in its beak—evidence not only that the waters had receded, but that the olive tree had somehow survived the deluge.
“That leaf is said to belong to one of the 16 Beladi olive trees growing in the Lebanese village of Bechealeh,” says Farid “Fred” Rebeiz, who grew up in Lebanon, attended the University of Texas, and now works as a real estate developer in Austin. “These ‘Mother’ trees are 6,000 years old, and they’re still producing fruit,” he continues. “They’re survivors.”
Currently, Fred and his wife, Monica, are collaborating with the City of Dripping Springs, Texas A&M University, Corine Boutroux Henuset, an olive expert consultant from France, and Novavine, a large grapevine nursery based in California, to plant a sizeable olive grove composed of saplings propagated from the “Mother” trees’ DNA.
Beginning in May, Texas A&M horticulturalist Monte Nesbitt plans to conduct a lengthy study of the compatibility of TIME Olive Trees’ Beladi and Ayrouni specimens with Texas’ native foliage and climate. For the study, Monte will analyze the growth, production, and fruit quality of select trees from the Rebeiz’ grove and three other planting sites across the state.
After spending 11 years in research and development, Fred feels confident that his olive tree varieties will impress, thanks to their drought resistance and longevity. “I believe the olive tree might be the next big thing in Texas Hill Country agriculture,” he says. “In the Mediterranean, people are very proud of their olive grove or tree. It comes from your father or grandfather. It’s very emotional, and the trees grow in value over time, so they say you plant a vineyard for your children and an olive grove for your grandchildren.”
However, Fred and Monica’s vision for their grove goes far beyond the trees themselves. Their ultimate vision is to surround the trees with a family-friendly Mediterranean village called Village of TIME. Tourists and locals will be able to visit at no cost to learn about olive trees, purchase their own saplings, and experience Mediterranean cultures through complimentary tastings and a self-guided walking tour tracing the history of the olive tree—from its ancient home in Bechealeh to its new home in Dripping Springs.
Pam Owens, director of tourism at the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce, firmly believes that Fred and Monica’s project will greatly benefit the local community and has been lending them her full support. “I’ve lived here 34 years, so I’m very attached to my community,” she explains. “When I saw how passionate Fred is about being part of our community, sharing his love of his mother country with us and bringing in tourism at the same time, I thought, ‘It’s the perfect fit.’”
“I am passionate about bringing our beautiful heritage to the Hill Country,” Fred agrees. “I think that Texans and the people of Lebanon share some of the same values. They’re both very hospitable and have big hearts. ‘Beladi’ means ‘from my home,’ and so I want to help people here discover this great treasure, the olive tree, for Texas.”
Time Olive Trees is hosting a tree-planting event, open to the public, on Saturday, May 6, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, or to learn more about Olive Grove Partners and their plans for the olive grove and Mediterranean Village, visit timeolivetrees.com.