RITZVILLE, Wash. - Camelina isn't a crop you typically see in the fields of Lincoln County.
Curt Greenwalt has been farming for a long time. And when his sons encouraged him to start growing camelina to make cooking oil, he originally said, "No. We're not going to do it, because there's no market for it is why. And then they said, 'Well, we'll develop our own market.' And then I said, 'I sent you to college to do this?'"
Eventually, dad gave in. He and his sons raised their first crop of camelina in 2010. And in 2011, Ole World Oils had its first press of Camelina Gold.
"It's been a real education," explained Greenwalt. "I haven't found a book yet written on how to develop an oil company or how to set up a press."
After dumping the camelina seed into giant bins, it then goes into smaller seed bins to be pressed.
"At the end of the press, we have a strike plate, where the seed is literally just forced into the strike plate and it releases the oil," said Greenwalt.
The protein meal that's left over is sold into the livestock market, predominantly for chicken food."
The oil has to settle for about five to seven days, depending on the weather. And then, "We pump it. Pump it. Most of it's all done by hand. And bottle it. Top it."
Ole World Oils now selling 9,000 gallons of camelina oil a year to as far away at Ireland and Taiwan.
It takes 33 pounds of seed to make one gallon of oil.
"That's about 28 to 30-percent of the seed is oil," said Greenwalt. "A little higher than canola."
Greenwalt says his Camelina Gold is healthier than most cooking oils, because it's high in omega three fatty acids and, "Very, very high in Vitamin E. About twelve times that of olive oil for Vitamin E."
Camelina Gold is also gaining popularity outside of the kitchen, because of its moisturizing properties.
"We consistently sell five gallon buckets to massage therapists. Spas for massage."
It's an unexpected market for a farmer who never expected he'd be making camelina oil in the first place.
But now, Greenwalt says, "We'd like to get it into a position where we're a little bigger, so maybe a family could make a living off of it."
And they may be on their way to doing just that.
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