Olive trees have been around for centuries; name a tree that has played more of a supporting role in a religious and historical context other than the Olive tree… I’ll wait.
It took a walk to the Acropolis, lined with the shimmery green trees to fuel my ongoing fascination. It still amazes me that all of these centuries and civilizations later, we are still enjoying an oil that has remained un-touched. It remains this way thanks to a little help from those willing to champion these hard-working olive farmers.
Well versed in the hospitality, food & drink industry, Sarah and Michael Vachon teamed up with their friends, Maria, and her husband Dimitris and the Amargiotakis family to form their Lianolia olive oil brand, Citizens of Soil.
The olive groves, located in the village of Dafnes on the island of Crete, Greece are owned by Maria Amargiotakis. They were passed down to Maria by her father and both Maria and Dimitris, tend to the olive trees and perform the seasonal harvest. Once complete, the olives are driven to Dimitris’ village to a mill owned by his family near Loures in Crete. The oil is then shipped to the UK where it is packaged for retail.
This family history is woven in with their supply chain story though Sarah’s work experience with Provenance.org (a platform that helps brands disclose information about the impact of their supply chains). To showcase the culture and the identity of their olive oil, consumers can see how the brand is aligned with soil regeneration projects through 1% of the Planet foundation, how they support the Amargiotakis’s as artisanal producers and how both Maria and Sarah are at the helm of the female-owned business. These well-rooted socially responsible actions reveal a brand ethos that is more than soil deep.
Creating a Community
Last year, I heard of a collaboration of sustainable olive groves in Italy, Nudo Adopt, which offers the opportunity for people around the world to adopt an olive tree. Of course, I had to adopt and own a piece of Italy for myself. The olive tree adoption program provides farmers with the economic stability for their harvest each year. This enables the farmers to rise above financial challenges and to continue to use low impact farming practices to produce authentic, high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “Nudo” in Italian translates to “naked” in English, which speaks to the nakedly fresh and unblemished oil. Olive oil that ‘parents’ will receive from their own tree is delivered fresh from the harvest, in addition to a membership to the world-wide olive grove family.
Starting in 2005, Katharine Doré took over the reins of Nudo Adopt in 2014. She did this while restoring her own Ligurian grove, Bestagno with the help of her husband Christopher and their 26-year-old autistic son, Toby. You can follow their story, as well as other farmers through a series of videos and blog posts which help inform the adoptive parents on the progress of their harvest.
My olive tree is located at Il Fico, a family owned, organic grove near the small village of Fico, on the Trapanese coast of Sicily. The grove is comprised of 300 olive trees that cohabit on the organic farm with an array of fruits including white and black plums, apricots, figs, pears, oranges, lemons, and grapes, producing natural wine and honey. Head farmer, Nicola, originally a computer engineer by trade, longed to be outdoors instead of sitting in front of a screen. With the help of Nudo Adopt, he was able to return to Il Fico and pursue his life-long passion. I’m looking forward to receiving my fruit flavored olive oil and visiting Nicola at Il Fico in the future.
Through sharing of comprehensive, transparent stories and establishing a global community, Citizens of Soil and Nudo Adopt have, in return reaped genuine connections while modernizing one of the oldest crops in the world! Connections to these farmers, not only ensures they have a successful harvest, but also – much like the olive – a resiliency with meaning and purpose.