Although they knew it was good olive country when they moved to the area more than ten years ago, Rob Pearse and partner Jude actually just wanted more acres for their horses and other rescue animals. But when a friend told them he was about to push out 100 olive trees, Rob offered to take and replant them instead.
The Macedon Ranges is classic olive-growing country: cool winters, hot summers with low humidity and good drainage.
With mattock and spade over several weekends, Rob moved the 15 year old trees, and the seed of what’s now Olive’s Olives was planted in their new grove in Edgecombe.
Although not all those transplants have been identified by variety, 90 of the trees survived. A remnant tag on one tree indicated a good table variety. With some olives best for oil production, others are better enjoyed as table olives. The tree tag led to Rob and Jude’s focus on eating olives and 200 more trees have been added over time.
Twelve years ago their entire harvest was about 40 olives. Rob’s joined associations, attended conferences, read voraciously, learned techniques in France and Italy and experimented. Knowledge, trees and harvests have grown. Last year’s harvest was two tonnes, used to create a range of table olives and pure olive pastes.
Spain produces over 20 per cent of the world’s table olives but this year’s European heatwave and lack of rain has been bad for the harvest. Poor olive production in Europe will add to existing shortages in the global market and compound sunflower oil shortages from Ukraine and Russia. Climate change is pushing classic olive-producing regions to become unviable.
Where reduced risk was an assumption behind globalised food trade, the opposite is also true. Global food security and climate change are further reasons to support local production through #vfmaaccredited farmers’ markets: short, transparent supply lines and you get to meet the grower!
As well as selling at farmers’ markets, Rob consults on olive growing, irrigating and harvesting, sharing the expertise he’s gained since he first started digging up those unwanted trees. Find him at farmers' markets around Macedon and have a chat!