Sunnylands invites the public onto the historic estate for an olive harvest in September

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

For the second time in five years, the community can access the estate for free to help produce its signature Sunnylands Olive Oil

Sunnylands reopens in September with an invitation to the community to spend a morning on the historic Annenberg estate to harvest some of the 600 olive trees on the property.

On both Wednesday, Sept. 11, and Thursday, Sept. 12, as many as 100 volunteers will be allowed to drive onto the former winter home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg in Rancho Mirage to gather a crop of olives that will be used to produce Sunnylands Olive Oil.

This is the second time the public is being invited to take part in the olive harvest. The first was in 2014, the year the olive oil program was launched.

“We’re so excited to welcome the public back to the estate and into the process of making a Sunnylands product that will end up on people’s kitchen shelves and dining room tables,” said Michaeleen Gallagher, director of education and environmental programs.

The program is a result of various sustainability efforts the estate has undertaken since it opened as a high-level retreat center focused on societal issues in 2012. For decades, fruiting suppressants were applied to olive trees on the 200-acre estate. But the practice has since come to an end after the trees were first allowed to fruit five years ago. Once bottled, Sunnylands Olive Oil will be available to the public at the Sunnylands gift shop.

Admission to the olive harvest will start at 6:30 a.m. on both Wednesday, Sept. 11, and Thursday, Sept. 12. Volunteers will be assigned to work in teams, led by Sunnylands staff members and UC Master Gardeners, to gather and sort olives after a mechanical hand has been used to shake the olives to the ground. Meanwhile, the Temecula Olive Oil Company will be on site to demonstrate the olive-milling process. The harvest will come to a close at about noon each day, when volunteers will be invited to take part in harvest fest featuring a light lunch and refreshments. The harvest fest will end about 1:30 p.m.

There is no charge for this event, but volunteers must register online for the day they would like to participate. Links to the online registration form can be found at and in the event listings of Sunnylands’ Facebook page. A maximum of four people may be registered under one reservation. Access to the estate will not be granted to individuals or parties who are not registered in advance. Entry to the historic Annenberg home will not be permitted. Volunteers must be at least 10 years old to participate.

Volunteers who have successfully registered for the program will receive an email with additional information and instructions. Members of the public with questions may call the Sunnylands education department at (760) 202-2234.

The first day of the olive harvest, Sept. 11, coincides with the reopening of Sunnylands Center & Gardens after its annual summer hiatus. The Center & Gardens will be open free of charge Wednesday through Sunday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 37977 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.