A Family-Owned Olive Mill in Arizona

An Arizona family builds a business growing olives, pressing oil and creating personal-care products.

| July/August 2017

  • The Reas include Brenda and Perry; daughters Joey, Este and Sydney; and sons, Angelo and John, who are in college.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • A fresh produce display at the mill showcases products and Queen Creek’s book.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Brenda shares the recently published Queen Creek Olive Mill Family Cookbook.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Perry shows off the olive press.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • The Reas grow a diverse variety to make their own blended flavors.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Olives with leaves on white background series
    Photo by mashuk; iStock
  • Brenda and her daughters post what they’re making each day outside the Olivespa production area.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Brenda and Joey work together to create olive oil lip balm.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • After pouring the olive oil and beeswax mixture into molds, Joey lets it cool and scrapes off the extra.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Once the lip balm has cooled in the molds, the sticks can be removed, and are ready to be labeled and sold.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Olivespa home & body gift boxes are a popular item.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Some Olivespa soaps are made with unique olive-branch molds.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • An employee wraps Olivespa soaps.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • The Queen Creek Olive Mill food truck serves up Italian flatbread sandwiches, or piadina, at Queen Creek festivals and events throughout the area.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Food is being prepped for one of the farm’s many events.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • Green olives branch on white background.
    Photo by KMNPhoto; iStock
  • Olive trees begin to flower in spring.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • The Arizona climate is perfect for olive trees.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography
  • The family-owned Queen Creek Olive Mill has been in operation for over two decades in Queen Creek, Arizona.
    Photo by MARIA FOSSLER; Elizabeth Douglas Photography

When Perry and Brenda Rea visited Arizona with their children on a family trip in 1996, they had no idea the vacation would change their lives. During their visit, the family noticed the abundance of olive trees on the city streets of Phoenix, dropping ripe fruit onto cars and sidewalks. Where the locals just saw trees, the Reas saw opportunity. At the time, there were very few companies making olive oil in the United States. “We thought, ‘Why isn’t anyone making [olive oil] in the U.S.?” Brenda says. “When we visited Arizona and saw how easily and quickly olive trees grew here, we saw a void that could be filled.”

The idea of opening an olive mill also fit with Perry’s Italian heritage, and the commitment Brenda, a longtime vegetarian, had to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “The olive oil definitely fit in with how we feel about life in general, so it was a lot bigger than just a business decision, but the business part of it fit right in,” Brenda says.

Within a year of their first visit, the Reas packed up their four young children (with a fifth on the way) and all of their belongings and left their home in Detroit to start Queen Creek Olive Mill, Arizona’s only working olive farm and mill. The family started the mill in the town of Queen Creek and settled in to a home 40 minutes away, where the kids would be closer to school and friends. In the 20 years since starting the business, Queen Creek Olive Mill has grown into a 100-plus employee operation, and includes top-quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, as well as Brenda’s line of handmade natural body-care products, Olivespa Home & Body — the mill’s fastest-growing product line.

Growing on the Job

Although they had some entrepreneurial experience (Perry previously ran an auto parts supply company), the Reas didn’t come to Arizona with an agricultural background. Their first step was to take a course on olive growing offered by the University of California, Davis. But out in the field, they quickly realized California growing methods don’t necessarily work well in Arizona. They’ve had to learn on the job, discovering their own lessons about cultivating olives over the course of 20 years, along with help from staff at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.



In addition to their evolving farm and business, the Rea family itself has seen plenty of change over two decades in Arizona. Today, their youngest daughter, Joey, 25, helps Brenda run Olivespa. The two older daughters, Este, 26, and Sydney, 28, also help out at the mill. Sons Angelo, 22, and John, 19, are both in college.

“When [the kids] were younger, when we’d give Christmas presents to their teachers, we’d send them a bottle of olive oil, and I think they were a little bit embarrassed at first,” Brenda says, “but the teachers were always like ‘Oh, this is great!’ so they started to understand it as a positive thing.”



Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds