“I have a little ranch out here with olive trees,” says Michal. “Last year I pressed maybe 20 gallons and it was amazing. But this year my aging neighbor, who has a huge orchard, was looking for someone to take it over. I thought, what am I going to do with all this oil, and then the fires started and I thought, ok, we can do something here.”
What he did was hatch a plan to harvest and press incredibly high quality olive oil, selling it to his network of friends and colleagues and donating 100% of the profits to fire victims. Word got around quickly and soon Michal’s enterprise was in full swing.
The full-time photographer and his girlfriend, Minhsing, had to take a crash course in organizing pickers, insurance, transport and same-day pressing. “I was doing photo shoots during the day then driving fresh-picked olives to Sonoma for an overnight press,” he recalls.
With hundreds of gallons pressed, Michal threw a pick-up party for over 100 people who came and tasted the oil, bottled it and applied his custom labels. “You could pay up to $300 per gallon for oil of this quality,” says Michal. “We did it for $100 a gallon and it sold out in a week.” They made over $4000 for fire victims and, he says, “we had a lot of fun doing it.”