IT’S BEEN 10 months—though it seems like 10 years—since I stood under an olive tree outside Altamura, in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy, and was instructed by Tonio Creanza on how, literally, to get the low-hanging fruit.

The tree was one of 700 that Tonio’s family owns on seven separate plots, and, for six generations, have harvested to produce olive oil. It was mid-November, right in the middle of the short but intense harvest season. Nonstop running, Tonio calls it. The operation is too big for his family to…

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