May 2014

Olives from Gippsland are adding to the region’s wide reputation for a growing range of quality gourmet foods. Women on Farms West Gippsland members learned why when their May activity took them to Jindivick to host farm for the day, Tarago Olives.

Here, 1100 olive trees are carefully managed for olives harvested to produce premium, virgin olive oil, pickled olives and a range of inventive treats such as olive paste and even olive jam.

The trees have been planted to maximize their exposure to necessary sun and to ensure good drainage. The varieties grown are Manzanillo, Frontoio, Nevadillo and Kalamata.

Sam Cabbabe, who planted the first trees on his property in 2004, is clearly well informed, inventive and progressive, being largely self-taught.  Propagation, processing, marketing, soil management, harvesting and tree maintenance have all had to be learned to get the results seen in 2014. Just which varieties were more suitable for which end use was one of the many lessons which Mr Cabbabe has learned.

To get the olives to a commercial level of production the main challenge to overcome has been bird invasion, with considerable losses of crop each year until the area was two thirds covered by bird netting.  Scaring guns, eagle images and other methods had not proven nearly as successful.  Even now, a certain amount of loss has to be anticipated.

After harvest, the fruit destined for extraction of extra virgin olive oil is transported promptly to a pressing enterprise in South Gippsland, then the oil is returned to Jindivick for marketing and distribution to established and highly regarded clients.  It is understood that chefs in a number of premium restaurants in Melbourne value the oil for its freshness and high quality. Mr Cabbabe explained the importance of establishing a personal rapport with his clients and of being responsive to their comments and feedback. The flavour and aroma of his oils are their key selling points.

A word of advice from Mr Cabbabe regarding storing olive oil is that it is sensitive to light, heat and air.  Thus, oil is at its best when protected in a dark, sealed bottle, away from heat.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.
For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.