Wild about olives

Dec. 14, 2023 | 5 Min read
Andrew and Megan Aitken knew they were onto something special when they drove out of a dense peppermint forest and first laid eyes on Wild Olive farm – now their home and their passion.

Andrew and Megan Aitken knew they were onto something special when they drove out of a dense peppermint forest and first laid eyes on Wild Olive farm – now their home and their passion.

Nestled between an ancient Karri forest and the wild Southern Ocean on the Nullaki Peninsula in Western Australia, Wild Olive Farm is today a certified organic olive grove with healthy soils the key to success for this business.

Initially the Aitkens planted 500 olive trees around 14 years ago but soon realised to be viable they needed to up production, increasing tree numbers to 2000 and expanding varieties to include Pendolino, Corregiola, Frantoio, Leccino and Verdale.

They only ever produce around 5000 litres of oil because quality is the key to everything they do.

Around two years ago they purchased their own olive press and everything is now processed completely in house.

The business also grows (amongst other things) garlic, watermelons, citrus – and is home for 25 beehives across the property.

Central to the management and daily operations is landscape gardener Simon Shepherd who firmly believes once you get the soil right, everything else will follow along.

Harvesting the olives is a big job.

The soil is a mixture of limestone-sandy soils so a fair bit of work was involved in building it up to the point where it could successfully hold nutrients.

“In the past five years the soil has really to come life and so have all the plants,” Mr Shepherd said.

Creation of a diverse pasture under the trees with 15 different species of grasses and legumes has been integral.

“In nature you never see just one plant in an area.

“This helps with nutrient accumulation and creates nitrogen in both the deep and shallow root parts of the soil which helps the fungi and bacteria react – the more diversity the better the outcome,” he said.

Mr Shepherd said despite the region currently experiencing drought conditions the farm is green and healthy.

“Now the soil is balanced with the right nutrients we still have healthy trees, the soil is alive and creates resilience during droughts.”

He said this resilience also helps when the trees come under attack from pests which living in the area they do, means this is always a possibility – and being organic means they always have to treat things naturally.

Around three-years ago there was a massive infestation of the sapsucking Lace Bug, which almost destroyed some of the trees.

Around three-years ago there was a massive infestation ofthe sapsucking Lace Bug.

“We hit the trees with a chrysanthemum based spray and we also got in contact with Bugs for Bugs and got some Green Lace Wings which are a natural Lace Bug predator.

“Along with wasps and spiders we have been able to get this under control. If we were to use conventional sprays this would wipe out everything including the predators we need to keep the system in balance.

“We are using science to help nature and it has been a huge success for us and the long term benefits far outweigh and y benefit we could ever get from conventional farming.”

The bees also play a huge role in the system with six different native species accounted for on the property alongside the honey bee.

“The native bees can definitely get into each flower better than a honey bee.”

Living in a wilderness area and preserving the environment is integral to every decision made on the farm which is why the business decided to invest in their own press.

“There was always a bio-security risk having our oil pressed off farm, buying the press has eliminated that risk,” he said.

Last year Wild Olive Farm won a gold medal at the 2022 WA Olive Awards (this was the first time they had entered the awards).

The judges concluded the oil was well balanced and harmonious and combined fresh grasses, pea shoots, olive leaf aromas – something the business contributes to their location and their organic status.

“We grow a wide variety of olives that blended together give a delicious, smooth oil.

“We believe that our land and its inhabitants should be treated with respect so that it can sustain us and future generations.

“And we know taking care of the Earth’s resources is the right thing to do and will lead to the most delicious olive oil,” Ms Aitken said. 

Products sold through the shop include olive oil in a variety of sizes, dukkah, honey and garlic.

“Organic certification is not cheap or swift and is an on-going process with a lot of paper work and boxes to be ticked.  

“To say we are proud of our certification does not quite cover it as it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get here,” she said.

Categories Olives

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