Queen Creek

Dear readers,

For 16 years now, I’ve been blessed to be one of Arizona’s biggest fans and ambassadors, enthusiastically sharing the state’s greatest treasures with viewers in hopes of encouraging them to get out and explore.

I’ve loved discovering new places or revisiting ones I had been to in seasons past. The best part is when someone says, “I watched Arizona Highways Television and wow, I never knew about that town, activity or restaurant and thanks to the show, I’m having so much fun going on these different excursions and exploring Arizona.”

I hope that everyone will continue traversing our beautifully diverse state. Still, I also understand that in these challenging and uncertain times, it has everyone wondering whether to keep traveling even if it’s just a car ride away.

My family and my Arizona Highways Television crew are having those same thoughts and struggles. Lucky for us, we have so many great stories already in our vault, we can keep sharing Arizona’s treasures with all of you until you are ready to go out and explore them for yourself.

About 45 miles from Phoenix in an area that seems far away from the big city is a place where attractive trees dot a 45-acre landscape, and where an exceptional “farm” sits.

If you’ve never been to Queen Creek, it’s worth a day trip to check out the Queen Creek Olive Mill. When you think of what grows in Arizona, olive trees may not be at the top of your list, and in truth, most of them are planted as landscaping.

Yet when Perry Rea, the owner of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, visited Arizona on a family vacation in 1997, he noticed the trees and had a very different idea of what to do with all of the olives.

Excited by his find, Perry and his wife decided to metaphorically put all their olives in one basket and move from Michigan to Arizona, where they struck liquid gold. What started with one bottle of extra virgin has morphed into 33,000 gallons a year of pure Arizona olive oil. That’s also with the help of their farming partners in Yuma and Sacaton.

One of the fun things about visiting the olive mill is that guests can take a tour and learn about the process of making olive oil. This tour is part of a growing type of tourism called Agri-tourism, where people combine destination, education, food and fun.

On this tour, we learned that olive oil has three different profiles: delicate, balanced and robust. Each has to do with when you harvest the fruit and each kind has a different taste.

Perry also likes to experiment with different flavors such as bacon, chili or roasted garlic, or you can stick with their award-winning extra-virgin olive oil. There’s a restaurant, and guests can buy everything from cupcakes made with olive oil to lotions and potions made with the same pure ingredient. Every month, the mill hosts a series of events, such as a date night pizza-making experience, a sangria social or an afternoon tea.

They also have live music, holiday markets and themed festivals. If you are looking for a quick getaway that gives you the feeling of being way off the beaten path, head to the East Valley for a bite, a tour and a bottle of olive oil.

— Robin Sewell is the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award winning Arizona Highways Television.