Australian Olive Association's International Olive Awards
Gold! Gold! Bronze!
In our last report I made mention of how successful our harvesting of the Hardy's Mammoth and Frantoio olives had been in leading to our biggest year for extra virgin olive oil production. We decided to enter both oils in the Australian Olive Association's International Olive Awards. Both oils were awarded Gold Medals. We also were awarded with a Bronze Medal for our later picked Frantoio. For the 2023 olive oil competition, there were 197 entries in the extra virgin olive oil category, 12 of which were from international exhibitors. Of the Australian entries, 77 were Victorian. The judging of all entries came from panels of judges from Spain, Italy, New Zealand, China, Tunisia and Australia.
This year we were able to make it to the A.O.A.I.O.A. Gala Presentation Dinner, which was held in the Ann Harding Conference Centre at the University of Canberra. It was a wonderful occasion where much information was exchanged, and there was the opportunity to meet face to face with people with whom all previous correspondence had been through telephone calls or emails.
This spring has provided us with good rainfalls in October, and better progress has been made with pruning than was the case last year. The bee population around our area is still pretty healthy, so hopefully 2024 will be another productive year.
Photography, Ayami McCallum
Avocado & prosciutto with DEVON SIDING olive oil. Cream cheese on top of crackers with chopped DEVON SIDING olives.
2023 Winter Update
Another Bumper Year
Every year provides new challenges, different experiences and new horizons. This year's harvest season was exciting for many reasons. We had our first customer for picking Jumbo Kalamata olives. We hosted an “Open Day” for the Women on Farms Project. We achieved a Devon Siding record oil yield of 25% for our crop of Frantoio olives. We have more Manzanillo olives in brine than we have ever had before. And we had two wonderful bird observations.
Our total fruit harvest for Extra Virgin Olive Oil production was over 2,100kg – 1,350kg of that was from our Frantoio olives. Hardy's Mammoth contributed the remainder. As mentioned earlier, our yields of 21.8% and 25% for our Frantoio pickings were particularly exciting.
In previous reports I have made mention of the wonderful catering done by Andrea in feeding our pickers. This year she was ably assisted by one of our sons and his wife. As usual, there was a strong approval of the soups, savoury dishes, cakes and coffees. Another feature of one of our lunchtimes was a captivating low altitude display by a pair of wedge-tailed eagles. They circled rhythmically for about 5 minutes.
Find the Owl in the olive tree!
Photography, Ross McCallum
Probably the biggest surprise came from within one of our Frantoio trees. A Boobook owl was keeping an eye on our pickers. He/she posed beautifully for our son, Ross, who took several photos. When the owl took off, we were all surprised at the bird's large wingspan and ability to fly smoothly only 40 to 50cm above the grass.
In conclusion, our oil is currently in our vats awaiting bottling. It should be available for sale from mid to late July.
2022 Spring Update
Australian Olive Association's International Olive Awards
In our last report I made mention of how successful our harvesting of the Hardy's Mammoth and Frantoio olives had been in leading to our biggest year for extra virgin olive oil production. We decided to enter both oils in the Australian Olive Association’s International Olive Awards. For the 2022 olive oil competition, there were 156 entries, 11 of which were from international exhibitors. Of the Australian entries, 62 were Victorian. The judging of all entries came from panels of judges from Spain, Italy, New Zealand, China, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Wagga Wagga.To our delight, both our Frantoio and Hardy's Mammoth extra virgin olive oils won gold medals. We were also informed that we had been judged to receive another special award, and that it would be great if we could attend the Gala Presentation dinner in Devonport on Friday, 14th October. Imagine our disappointment when after a day’s travel to Tullamarine airport, we were informed 10 minutes after our scheduled departure time of 5.00 p.m. that our flight had been cancelled! The heavy rains in Devonport had led to this decision. There were no available flights the next day, and the Spirit of Tasmania ferry service had also been cancelled. It was back onto the Skybus and the remaining 3 hours of travel back home.However, by the Saturday afternoon, we felt much better as the news was released that Devon Siding had been awarded Extra Virgin Olive Oil Best of State Champion for Victoria for its Frantoio E.V.O.O. It was a pity that we couldn’t get to the presentation dinner, but it is good that the cancellation of our flight was made with passenger safety the primary concern.This year continues to be wet, and the pruning of trees is way behind schedule, but it is good to see large numbers of developing flower buds in the grove.
2022 Winter Update
A Mammoth Year
As the title of this update suggests, the 2022 harvest has been very successful. In fact it has been our biggest harvest ever, so far producing over 2,200 kg of fruit. About 1,800 kg of that total has been our Hardy's Mammoth olives, which has produced a medium-bodied oil with ripe olive and slightly floral characteristics. The remainder of our harvest has been from our Frantoio trees. We have reached a point now where the remainder of our olives will be passed on to another grove.
Our harvesting of Manzanillo olives for pickling in brine also went really well. We were able to have harvest sessions that focussed on green, red and black fruit. All this fruit is hand-picked to ensure that only the premium olives get into the jars.
Because of the size of this year's harvest, we have been able to reintroduce our 5 litre tins of oil for sale for a limited time, still at the 2020 price of $80.00. All our prices have remained the same as they were in 2020, with wholesale quantities being rewarded with wholesale prices. On the Devon Siding Olives website all our prices can be seen.
At Devon Siding we have a wonderful group of pickers and kitchen assistants who again have made this year not only our most successful, but also one of our most enjoyable. I also want to thank our family who contributed greatly to the harvest, the photography, the video recording and the catering.
2021 Spring Update
Last time I wrote, I spent some time outlining the impacts of several consecutive severe frosty nights which effectively halved our olive harvest. I wasn't expecting another round of unhelpful weather events. However, local heavy rains accompanied by flooding in June postponed the pruning program. Tractors and other vehicles were unable to reach the grove through the waterlogged paddocks. After some weeks, pruning was able to commence, and we were finally able to make use of our new chipper. We made this purchase to enable us to avoid the lighting of bonfires to burn all the pruning off-cuts. The resultant mulch has been spread on all our house garden beds, and in the future I can see much more of this mulch being returned to the soil in the grove.
The latest weather challenge has been the heavy rainfall and floods of late September and early October. Again my pruning plans have had to be put on hold.
The good news has been an increased demand for our oil and olives in brine – no doubt in part the result of the “Buy Local” campaign being pushed by the Wellington Shire and Victoria in general. There is also a sense of satisfaction that our more environmentally friendly approach to pruning is a good move.
2021 Winter Update
It would be impossible to make any seasonal report without making reference to the Covid Pandemic and its impact on our operations. Overall, we have been lucky in the sense that our harvesting was able to continue as we planned until severe and unusually early frosts hit in late May. The sales and distribution of our olives in brine and extra virgin olive oil have not been seriously affected.
Weather events have worked against us this year. Whilst our Manzanillo harvest for pickling in brine went well, and our largest crop of Hardy's Mammoth was secured, we then experienced four days in a row when the minimum temperatures plummeted to minus 4, minus 4, minus 2 and minus 2! As a consequence, all our Corregiola and Frantoio olives browned, shrivelled and/or split on the trees. End of the picking! In addition, the massive storm event that swept through the Dandenongs, entered Victoria from the Gippsland coast, and although the damage to the nearby forests and National Parks was severe, our grove didn’t appear to suffer much. The rest of the property required a fair bit of cleaning up, but it has been the frequent rain since then that has saturated the ground. As a result, no pruning has been able to be done yet.
On a more positive note, the Hardy's Mammoth Extra Virgin Olive Oil has gone through its laboratory testing at Modern Olives Laboratories, and we have again entered our oil in the Australian Olive Association’s International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. The Hardy's Mammoth olive produces quite a floral oil compared with our traditional Corregiola/Frantoio blend. We look forward to the judges' descriptors.
Our Hardy's Mammoth Extra Virgin Olive Oil is now reaching our usual outlets, and we expect our olives in brine to be there by spring or early summer.
2020 Winter Update
After a dismal 2019, where our numbers and size of olives didn't warrant a harvest, this year has been very successful. We have had all our olive varieties being productive, so there is a good quantity of our Hardy's Mammoth extra virgin olive oil, a pleasing volume of Manzanillo olives sitting in brine, and a good quantity of our primary E.V.O.O.– the Frantoio single varietal.
Our Hardy's Mammoth and Manzanillo olives were the first varieties harvested this year. Our spring and summer seasons were kind to us, with useful rainfall at the right times. These fruit were hand-picked back in May.
In mid-June we were able to organize magnificent weather conditions for our teams of faithful pickers. Family and friends have been loyal labour for many years now, but this year the harvest experience was particularly enjoyable. Andrea's catering played no small part in this, together with the balmy sunshine.
For the first time in many years, we have had to make a modest increase to the prices of our extra virgin olive oil as well as our manzanillo olives in brine. We are introducing a new additional 250ml bottle size to our range, and have had to design a new bespoke label. Of course we will continue to have our 100ml bottles (ideal for hampers, wedding gifts etc.), our 500ml bottles and our 5litre tins. Our olives in brine will again be in 200gm glass jars, as well as in 1kg and 2kg plastic buckets for our restaurant customers.
2019 Winter Update
Due to the prolonged drought, we have not harvested olives for our extra virgin olive oil this year.
Olives in brine from our 2018 harvest are still available, but no oil. We are hopeful that conditions will improve for next year.
2019 Autumn Report
In the summer report of 2018, I recall making mention of the drier-than-usual conditions. Little did I know that that trend would continue through the year until now, when we are still in drought. Any farming activity east of Wilson's Promontory has been a struggle – in particular the dairy sector. In our case, the olive trees appear quite healthy, but the fruit they produced was so small, we have decided to not harvest this year.
For those interested in statistics, our total rainfall for 2018 was 430mm, and during January, February, March and April this year, our monthly rainfall figures have been 9mm, 19mm, 40mm and 21mm respectively. Our long-term annual average would be upwards of 700mm!
On a more positive note, we have sold out our supplies of extra virgin olive oil, but still have healthy quantities of our manzanillo olives in brine. Last autumn we also purchased a new mulcher (flail mower) which has eliminated the environmentally unfriendly activity of amassing prunings into bonfires. It has also saved me a lot of time.
Hopefully my next report will be able to acknowledge soaking rains which will be so much appreciated by our local area.
2018 Summer Report
Some early summer rains were very useful for preparing the grove for what has turned out to be a fairly dry summer season so far. So often the summer storms that affect northern Victoria seem to drift along the Murray Valley and fail to affect southern Victoria. The major drying factor in our part of Gippsland is the prevailing easterlies or north-easterly winds that quickly suck any moisture out of the ground.
Despite the above, although 2018 is expected to be a lighter year for our fruit production, there are still reasonable numbers of Corregiola, Manzanillo and Hardy's Mammoth. We are looking forward to building on the success of our gold medal oils of last year, and again producing a top quality single varietal Hardy's Mammoth extra virgin olive oil.
2017 Spring Report
This year at Devon Siding has been our best ever: over 3,125kg of fruit, 565 litres of extra virgin olive oil, an average yield of nearly 18%, and 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal from the 4 oils which we entered in the Australian Olives Association's International Olive Oil and Table Olives Competition. At this competition there was an international judging panel and extra virgin olive oil entries from Argentina, Chile, China, North America, New Zealand and of course, Australia. There were 212 entries in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil section from Australia alone.
It was wonderful to receive the recognition for our Frantoio, Frantoio/Manzanillo and Frantoio/Corregiola oils, but the highlight for us was the very high scoring Hardy's Mammoth single varietal oil. We have been waiting patiently, and sometimes impatiently, for this variety to produce the volume of fruit to warrant its pressing as a single variety. Equally pleasing has been consumers' positive appraisals of this variety's fruity and floral characteristics.
Can 2018 match this year? Spring has been kind to us so far – some good early rains, and now some warmth.
2017 Autumn Report
After a very quiet 2016, where little fruit was available for pressing, and only small numbers of olives there for pickling in brine, this year looks very promising.
For the first time, our Hardy's Mammoth trees are heavily laden with fruit. At the time of writing, the trees' branches are drooping with medium to large red olives. Historically, these have been our first olive variety to be picked, and again this will be the case for our oil pressing.
The Manzanillo olives have been earlier than normal in their ripening. Both red and black olives have just been picked and are now in brine, so they will begin to become available later in the year.
The majority of our picking will again be Frantoio and Corregiola, and these olives are just beginning to change colour. We expect to be picking through most of May and early June.
This year we expect to have Extra Virgin Olive Oil in our traditional Frantoio / Corregiola blend as well as a single variety pressing of the Hardy's Mammoth. Our bottle sizes will continue to be 100ml and 500ml, with the addition of 1 or 2 litre tins. Our olives in brine will again be in 200gm glass jars, as well as in 2kg and 4kg plastic buckets for our restaurant customers.
2015 Spring Report
In our part of South Gippsland, Spring has been an uncharacteristically dry season, with only 58 mm of rainfall up to the 22nd November. Underscoring this point has been the recent bushfire which burnt to within 3km of our grove. In planting an olive tree along our driveway, a crowbar was required for most of the digging. However, despite the prolonged dry spell, there has been a surprisingly good flush of flowers on many of our trees. The overall coverage of blooms on the grove has been a bit inconsistent, but our Hardy's Mammoth trees seem promising.
For the first time, we decided to enter our Frantoio / Corregiola blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil in this year's Australian Olive Association national competition. We entered it into the Class 3, Robust style oils, and were delighted to receive a silver medal. This was very encouraging, and if the season's Hardy's Mammoth production is sufficient, we will probably submit it for judging next year.
Our new line of 100ml bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil have been selling very well, particularly as wedding gifts, Tourist Information Centre souvenirs and hampers. The 500ml bottles and jars of olives in brine continue to be popular with our regular stockists.
2015 Autumn Report
Once again we have been very busy keeping up with orders for our extra virgin olive oil and Manzanillo olives in brine. The world continues to shrink, as evidenced by the bombardment of emails reaching us from China, imploring us to either exhibit our oil or sell it. That is not going to happen, as we are very happy with our grove of 600 trees, and don’t want to get any bigger.
At the time of writing we have begun bottling our 2015 Frantoio, Corregiola and Hardy’s Mammoth blend of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Although we may not have had many extremely hot days over summer, our minimum temperatures were above average, and we were able to harvest over a ton of fruit. With an average yield of 19.4%, there are over 200 litres of oil to bottle. Much of this will go into 500ml bottles, but a significant quantity will go into our 100ml sample / wedding gift bottles, as they seem to be very popular.
A few weeks ago we were visited by the Yinnar and Community Garden Group who were keen to see around the grove, and pick some Manzanillo olives with the intention of marinating them in brine as we do. The weather was perfect, the company was very friendly, and the day was a great success. I’m half expecting another “Open Day” of some sort to be on the calendar next year.
2014 Spring Report
What a hectic year it has been. Following a lengthy trip overseas in the later part of 2013, the workload in getting on top of all the jobs around the property was considerable.
Our harvest in June this year was small - particularly for the pressing of fruit for our Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The quality was excellent, so we would have loved to have had much more. However, it did present us with a new direction for our oil. We were approached by a couple who were wanting local produce as bomboniere (wedding favours) for their up-coming wedding. This meant finding smart 100ml bottles and redesigning our text and colour scheme for our labels. We are very pleased with their excitement at the product we have been able to create for them.
Fortunately the quantity of Manzanillo olives was good, so we embarked on pickling them in brine and selling them in 200gm jars, as well as in 2kg tubs for a local restaurant. The sales of our olives in brine have been very encouraging, so the relatives may not be getting as many for Christmas gifts in the future.
Half the grove was pruned quite heavily in August, and our spring has been relatively dry at 164ml for the Sept - Nov period. Every year we have to contend with spring storms and strong winds, so our fingers will be crossed for a good harvest in 2015.