Introduction

The grove was established in 2000 and acquired by Kerrie and Stephen Parker in 2004. The farms' proximity to the Great Ocean Road, Surf beaches and magnificent Otway Ranges and Coastal hinterland was a major consideration for us given our young children at the time. The idea of a small farming enterprise in parallel with our careers was highly attractive and the opportunity to create something from nature that we can consume and is healthy for us was enticing and exciting. We feel there needs to be greater awareness and commitment by all of us to our own health and food production. This enterprise has given us an opportunity to engage in both aspects as well to share our produce, experiences and beliefs.

From the start, we have had a focus on sustainability and a minimal impact on nature. We learnt very quickly that sustainability has many dimensions and that to be able to continue this operation and enjoy the lifestyle, we had to become very efficient and prudent with maximum re-use and minimal waste. Being time and cost constrained brings with it a critical focus on priorities and being effective when there are long term goals to fulfil. Olive growing is a long-term pursuit without short cuts.

Whilst we are a small business, we learnt early that our grove is too big to be run as a boutique provider or hobby farm. Our focus from very early on has been on maximising productivity given our limitations so we can deliver great value quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil to our customers. We've managed to do this with minimal chemicals and with limited water. We are not organic - but we are low impact.

We also learnt that Olive growing is like any other primary production enterprise. Engaging with the local rural community was like being woken up from a dream. (I won't go into the detail!). With lots of local advice we realised that the primary determinants of our produce was nature and that we needed to work with what we had because whatever we would add would only ever have short term benefit and quite likely long term detrimental impacts. So healthy trees and healthy soil are the things we focus on. We have limited water and therefore we live with the seasonal variations in yield, choosing not to push the trees artificially.

Given all the challenges with the primary production issues, they really are just things to be understood and “lived” with.  We have learnt to expect the unexpected and to not have unrealistic expectations.

For our industry, however the challenges are in the sales and marketing of our wonderful product.  Our extra virgin olive oils are amongst the best in the world, but we need to educate the Australian consumer to this fact and the fact that they are being duped as to what to expect of real Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Australian consumers need to pressure the government to implement tougher labelling regulations across all food groups.  For the olive oil industry, this would mean that much of the deceitful labelling of imported bulk oil would be stopped.  It wouldn’t be called Extra Virgin Olive oil because much of it is not Extra Virgin Olive oil!  A very high proportion of it is adulterated deodorised rancid oils that are deceitfully labelled.

So enough of me being on our high horse...I could type for days.  Please explore the rest of the story and if you have questions just call or drop us a message.

Cheers

Stephen

 

We aim to have healthy trees with the lightest touch possible from any chemicals.  By regular pruning and shaping of the trees we have achieved this.  As with any primary production enterprise nutrient is being removed from the soil by the fact of growing a crop, tree or feeding animals so we replenish the nutrients from time to time with organic compounds and soil improvers and use mulch to help sustain and encourage the biological processes. 
 
We do knock down the weeds once or twice a year as you can see in the image here.
Our crop sizes have been as big as 30,000kg with oil yields of ~5,000+L of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Given our scale we aim to be a value provider of extra virgin olive oil and not a small scale boutique provider.  At full production we are expecting around 50,000kg of fruit.
 
We still consider ourselves Artisans because we learn as much as we can about our trade and put all our love and skill into producing our products for you.  We've never needed to buy oil or fruit from elsewhere having been a seller of fruit and oil to other growers given our size.
We learnt early on that efficiency in the harvesting process was critical for any chance of producing value for money and consistently great quality extra virgin olive oil.  Doing things by hand produced mixed results so we changed our work practices and groomed our trees for mechanical harvesting.
Instead of weeks to complete the harvest, it is now usually completed within 2-3 days.  We have our Extra Virgin Olive Oil back to us from the processing plant within 24 hours and begin the settling process immediately in our Stainless Steel tanks.

 

 

Each season we re-evaluate our processing options.  Our criteria are based around professional efficient quality production processes.  So, we only choose processors that are certified to the Australian Olive Associations Code of Practice and those that can turn around our fruit in the shortest possible time.
 
We work incredibly closely with the processor during the harvest to ensure that the fruit is despatched from our farm and received without delay so that fruit is not sitting around at our grove, in trucks or their plant waiting to be processed.
 
After processing our oils are decanted into our transport containers and assigned a batch number before leaving the plant.  This batch number stays with the oil throughout the life of the oil and onto the product packaging.  It means we can trace the oil you purchase back to the day it was created.
 
For the 2016 harvest, we chose to use Oasis Olives of Kialla in Victoria.  We were very happy with their professional and friendly approach, the way our fruit was immediately processed and the oil yield and quality.
The packaging process is often a family and friends’ affair.  We setup our filling machine and organise our materials and fill our cans in small batches.  We rope in any free labour and setup a very small production line so that it is all completed relatively quickly.
 
The cans take 15 seconds or less to fill after which they are immediately sealed, labelled and stamped with the batch and packaging details before being packed in cartons and put back into storage ready for delivery to our customers.
On return from the processing plant the Extra Virgin Olive oil is transferred immediately into our stainless steel storage tanks in a temperature controlled room.
 
For approximately a four to six weeks we let the oil settle whilst we organise testing, labels and other packaging materials.  Throughout this period we regularly drain off any settlings.  We do not like the idea of filtering through processed cotton preferring settling of our oil instead.