Funding Berkeley’s first community olive oil press

Andy Dale has a dream: to open a community olive oil press.

The idea is an outgrowth of Dale’s recent foray into urban farming. For the past few years, Dale, a computer security and privacy architect, has been making products in his West Berkeley backyard. He sells honey made by bees who live among his flowerbeds, eggs laid by his chickens, tomatoes and other produce he grows, and even grape jelly made from a friend’s Sonoma County vineyard.

Sunflower oil made by Andy Dale

Now Dale wants to open a community olive oil press – and he is looking for money in an unusual way.

To raise the $2,500 he needs to buy the press and locate it in a commercial kitchen, Dale is advertising on Kickstarter.com, a website that uses crowd-sourcing to raise funds for budding entrepreneurs. Artists, filmmakers, writers, painters, and cooks –  anyone with a creative idea – can post a project on the site and ask people for donations.


It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Each project has a funding goal and time limit set by the creator, usually ranging from a few days to three months. When the deadline is reached, if a project has met its fundraising goals, all the credit cards of those pledging donations will be charged. If the project has not met its funding goals, it is cancelled.

Kickstarter, founded a year ago, has been particularly effective in raising funds for the growing cottage food movement. Even though most donations are less than $50, food businesses succeed in reaching their funding goals 68% of the time, Yancey Strickler, one of Kickstarter’s co-founders, told Chow.com. Other projects succeed about 50% of the time.

Kickstarter takes 5% of the pledged funds and Amazon, which processes the transactions, takes another 1%.

Dale, who lives on Seventh Street with his wife and two children, hopes the Bay Area’s dedicated foodies will be interested in helping him buy an olive oil press because he plans to make it a community concern. “The intent is to set up a place where people who have olive trees can bring their olives to be pressed,” said Dale, who recounts his urban farming experiences on a blog called Dale Family Farm.

As far he can tell, there is no place in the Bay Area where people can bring their olives to be made into olive oil. There are places in Napa and Sonoma, but not nearby.


Andy Dale and his family

Those using the press can pay for their time either by donating oil or paying a small fee, said Dale.

Dale is just one a number of Berkeley residents who have turned to Kickstarter to raise funds.  Some of the projects that have successfully raised money include a UC Berkeley alumni literary anthology, ($925 raised) a vaudeville-variety show called “The History of Human Stupidity,”  ($1,100 raised) and the Delphinium Cheese Company, which will make a variety of artisanal cheeses. ($1,865 raised)

Other interesting Bay Area projects include an island-wide, interactive production of Hamlet on Alcatraz, ($9,146 pledged) a comic book on human trafficking, ($695 pledged) and a pyramid cocoon sculpture for this year’s Burning Man Festival. ($1,150 pledged)

One of the most successful projects on Kickstarter was Little City Gardens in San Francisco, which raised $20,394 to expand its small urban farm in the Mission District into a half-acre project. More than 240 people from around the world donated money.

“Your story, and how you tell it, compels me!” Caroline Rennie of Switzerland wrote to Little City Gardens. “Thank you so much for inviting us along, and for doing the heroic work you are doing. Yay!”


One inducement to donate are the freebies each project promises. Philip X. Diaz of the Delphinium Cheese Company, which intends to deliver small-batch, handcrafted artisan cheeses to East Bay homes, offered donors a t-shirt or a few wedges of cheese. Anthony Myint’s Mission Street Food raised $12,500 and promised a restaurant gift certificate or a donation to a local food bank. Dale plans to offer a free bottle of olive oil or time on the oil press.

A lot of the donors contribute to multiple projects. One of Dale’s donors is also giving money to help a Boston journalist conduct tests on a mysterious object thought to be connected to a 30-year old mystery as well as to a photographic study of the bridges of Portland, Oregon.

As of Monday, Dale had raised $225 from 5 backers. He has 34 days and $2,275 to go.