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An Olive Orchard Grows in Texas

Update: 2021

I was saddened to read of the passing of Sandra and the closure of Sandy Oaks. She was a remarkable woman who built a beautiful destination. Hopefully, this post shows what a wonderful place it was.

Road Trip! Time to take a day off and explore. Destination: Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Elmendorf, Texas. I left Houston, just before 7am. Sunrise was my first photo of the day. Elmendorf is about 20 minutes south of San Antonio, Texas and a three hour drive from Houston. I enjoy traveling west in the morning, the sunrise is behind you without any glare in your eyes.

A sunset over a house with power lines in the background.

My first stop about 2 hours later was Buc-ee’s in Luling Texas. It is a destination. They have everything… fuel, food, gifts, and clean spacious restrooms.

The sky is cloudy.

On to San Antonio, and south to Elmendorf, Texas. Once off the freeway, I traveled down a country road for a few miles. I passed not one, but two, splits in the road built around some very old oak trees. Nice to see that the road was diverted around the trees instead of removing them.

A road with a sign next to a tree.

A simple sign above the gate leads the way up a driveway lined with olive trees.

A dirt road with a gate leading to a farm.

An older woman with white hair standing in front of an olive tree.
Sandy Winokur

Saundra Winokur, the proprietor and owner of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is true pioneer. A native of Texas, who has through sheer grit, hard work and determination, created a thriving olive orchard right here in Texas. I’ve spoken to Sandy many times over the past 5 years but had never met her in person until today. She is charming, authentic and inspiring. She transformed this old ranch into something wonderful that folks from all over come to visit.

She employees a bustling staff of 15, including Ranch Manager, Miguel Villareal, Orchard Manager, Roberto Villareal and Executive Chef, Cathy Tarasovic. As you drive up the hill on the left is her private residence. A charming cluster of three separate buildings, the main house, the studio and the guest house built with a combination of stone and cedar. It’s like Tuscany… Texas style. The landscaping is beautiful with a blend of stone, pottery and native plantings. And yes, there are olive trees in her front yard.

A wooden porch with potted plants.
One of my favorite photos

A wooden porch with a potted plant on it.
A wooden bench on the porch of a house.
A weather vane with a horse on it.
A stone building with a wooden porch.

A plant in a pot on a rock.
Clay pots are lovely on a stone bed.
An old wooden wagon sitting in a field.
Old wagon is art in the front garden

A wooden fence in front of a stone house.

This is a working ranch. Adjacent to the homestead are cattle pastures, majestic oaks, and old cedar gates. It was very peaceful walking around taking pictures. So quiet, at times, all you could hear was the breeze just blowing through the trees.

A group of trees in a grassy field.
A wooden gate in the middle of a grassy field.
Olive trees are everywhere. In clay pots, planted in garden beds, potted for sale in the nursery and planted in an orchard that spans 40 acres. Sandy’s websites provides detailed information about all of the varieties they sell. Her favorites?

Hard to say, of course, I like Arbequina, but I also like Pendolino, Picual and Manzanilla.

A group of trees in a grassy field.
Two cows grazing in a field next to a fence.
A fence and a tree in a field.
A large tree in the middle of a field.

Over the hill and off to the right is a cluster of rustic buildings that is the heart of the olive ranch. The original gift shop and office and a production building.

A group of cars parked in front of a building.

A brown and white dog standing on a concrete floor.

I was greeted by Scruffy. As Sandy later told me, “He was dropped off at the gate a year ago in June and came down to the plant shed. Everyone took bets on how long it would take him to sleep at night in the house…. Less than a week.”

A front porch with a wooden railing and a potted plant.
Exisiting Gift Shop and Office
A house with a tree in front of it.
Future Gift Shop and Offices

A new two-story building is under construction that will be the future home of a brand new expanded gift shop and offices. Visitors are welcome at Sandy Oaks Tuesday thru Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Saturdays feature an orchard tour and olive oil tastings. Sample their olive oil, olive leaf jelly, and all the other delicious food products from their pantry. Tour starts at 11:00 AM.

A wooden walkway with potted plants in front of a house.
A group of people standing under a tree.
An outdoor dining area with tables and chairs.
A patio with a table and chairs in front of a house.

Overlooking the patio, is a fenced area where young olive trees in containers are growing. Sandy Oaks sells trees retail and wholesale. Customers can purchase these in sizes from 6″ pots to 15 Gallon containers.

A wooden archway in a garden.
A wooden fence and trees in a field.
A wooden fence with plants in it.

A stone building with a water tank in the middle of a field.
Old Stone Mill Sandy Brought Back from Egypt

The orchard is about 40 acres and is lined with mostly Arbequina, Mission, Picual, Pendolino, and Manzanilla olive trees. Of the 11,000 trees, 7,000 are of the Spanish variety, Arbequina. There are 32 different varieties planted all over the orchard. Sandy continues to experiment with varieties to find which ones are best adapted for her San Antonio climate.

A field with trees in it.
A fire hydrant in the middle of a field.
A field with a lot of trees in it.

While observing the orchard, Sandy noticed that a cluster of olives trees around an old oak were growing much more vigorously than the rest of the orchard planted at the same time. Apparently, the robust growth comes from a colony of mycorrhizal fungi on the roots of the oak tree. Sandy is so convinced of the beneficial relationship she has incorporated the fungi into the potting mix and compost they put around the trees.

A row of olive trees in a field.
Mycorrhizal Fungi Colony

A dirt road leading to an olive grove.
An olive tree in a field with green leaves.

A truck parked in front of a building.
Production Building & Cooking Classes

The production facility is where they hold cooking classes and package their specialty foods. It was very interesting to see where the olive oil is made. At harvest time (about the end of the summer), workers pick the olives from the orchard. They are sorted and most are used for making their own blend of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They offer a variety of olive related products from handcrafted soaps, spa and skin care products (made in part from olive leaf and infused olive oil) to delicious goodies for your pantry including “Olives with a Texas Accent!” ™).

A kitchen with a stove and a hood.
Kitchen for Cooking Classes
A kitchen with a stainless steel counter top and stainless steel appliances.
Production Kitchen
A front porch with a wooden railing and a potted plant.
Existing Gift Shop
A wooden shelf with jars on it.
Inside the Gift Shop
A wooden table with a lot of items on it.
Olive Oil is Delicious

A machine that is used to make flour in a factory.
A blue and white machine sitting in a room.

My visit to Sandy Oaks was delightful and I will be back for the opening of the new gift shop next year. If you are in the San Antonio area, it is definitely worth a visit. To learn more about Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard visit their website.

A man in a red shirt standing next to a wooden fence.
You’re sure to find warms smiles and friendly folks.

A woman standing under a tree in a field of flowers.

I asked Sandy for some parting words of wisdom for others who may be inspired to plant an orchard.

I think one has to love the business. Since it is an agricultural business, one has to be risk tolerant. It is very hands on, very much like raising children. – Sandy Winokur

A close up of an olive plant with green leaves.

A pair of white gloves sitting on a brick wall.

Be sure to check Sandy Oaks website for upcoming events. Each month, she hosts an event and serves complimentary tapas. Wine, beer and olive leaf tea are sold by the glass.

6 thoughts on “An Olive Orchard Grows in Texas”

  1. Jackie, Thank you for taking the trip and bringing back to us all those lovely pictures and details. Its definetly going to be on my To Visit list.

    The Buc-ee’s is a great stop. Their Taco’s are great !!

  2. Wow! I love that porch scene with the potted plants. Such a beautiful scene. David/ Tropical Texana

  3. Delightful. I could smell the different leaf armoas from my PC. Thanks for sharing. Another reason for a road trip and then on West for a winery.

  4. Desert Dweller / David C.

    Those are nice olive trees, especially interspersed with all the live oak pics. I wonder how the oil tastes from trees grown in high humidity, compared to those from drier Spain and Calif? Thanks for sharing, esp since my 1 and only potted Arbequina Olive died taking it in this winter a couple times.

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