Gathering the good oil

Olive oil enthusiasts: left to right: Debbie Young, Jacky Caddick and Margaret Bailey

A touch of Mediterranean lifestyle is taking hold at Whakapirau where the odd olive tree in the garden has sparked plans for an annual festival.

Local resident Jacky Caddick, realised her backyard olive grove had produced far too many olives to preserve and yet not enough to press for oil. Avoiding waste, she asked around and found that The Olive Place in Wellsford was willing to press small amounts of olives. She then wondered if there might be others with the same problem.

“I had no idea how many olive trees were actually in the village, so I walked around and spotted quite a few. I sent an email out to see if anyone else was interested and everyone was very positive.”

As a result, armed with buckets, rakes and mats, the so-called ‘Whaka Pluckers’ began the village olive harvest.

“We were on a mission,” says Jacky. “We had to pick all the olives in the morning and then get them down to the press that afternoon; because the sooner they are pressed the better the quality. In the scale of things, we didn’t have that many olives. We got kilogrammes off some trees and only grams from others. However, at the press, even though we only had about 50kg of olives, we were treated as though we were the biggest producers in the country.” At the end of the day 7.5 litres of olive oil were brought back to Whakapirau, where the olive growers celebrated in style with a traditional tasting session of oil dipped, home-made sourdough bread.

Since then the idea has blossomed, and with financial support from the Whakapirau Residents and Ratepayers Association and a grant from Fonterra, more olive trees have been bought and planted on Karaka Green — the local reserve.

“There has been such a positive spin-off,” Jacky explains. “We are now planning an annual olive festival. A fun event where everyone picks and we end up with a long, Italian style lunch on the village green.”
 


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