There are many things that we know now which, had we known earlier, may have changed a lot of decisions we’ve made along the way.

The biggest one is, would we even own Apulia Grove? I have no doubt that there would be an olive grove in our lives, I’m just not entirely sure it would be this one.

When Charles and I were looking for our grove, we had two criteria: The trees should already be planted, and there had to be “a bit of geography” to the local vista. Our farm definitely fits both of those but, not knowing what we didn’t know at the time, looking back 2500 trees was SUCH a steep learning curve. We’re now just over 15 years into our olive growing journey and I’m pleased to say that we finally feel like we’re getting our heads around it all!

This learning journey hasn’t been undertaken alone, of course. There are many generous growers and growers groups that we’ve met along the way who have very eloquently, enthusiastically and wholeheartedly shared their knowledge, skills and information with us at each step. We are grateful to everyone who has guided us along the way, and we love to pass on that knowledge where we can too. Knowing what to do when, and being able to prepare in advance for the tasks required on your property is a big part of living with the seasonal cycle of agricultural production. It’s actually one of my favourite things about farming. Observing the time of year and carrying out the appropriate tasks really allows for the slow pace of true life, as opposed to the artificially hyped pace represented frequently in media and online.

I have previously shared our Grove Maintenance Calendar, and hope that you find it useful. But in addition to this helpful planner, here are a list of resources that I wish I’d known about earlier in our olive growing journey:

  1. The Australian Tree Crop Map. This is a mapping project of the University of New England which covers diverse tree crops, including olives. You can scroll in and out to show different amounts of data, and it helps to identify groves near you in case of biosecurity issues, or if you just want to meet a neighbour who also grows olives!
  2. The OliveBiz website. I’m actually not even sure this existed in 2007 when we bought our grove, but it’s a fabulous industry resource for all things olive related (including information on pest and disease management).
  3. The Australian Olive Association Annual Conference. It’s so nice to be able to meet with other growers and discuss what the Industry body is doing for us, how they want to help and where we need the most assistance to get going and get growing. Last year I was invited to present a paper on personal and professional development opportunities for olive growers. This was related to my application for:
  4. The Nuffield Scholarship. Aimed at farmers 45 years or younger, this scholarship provides an opportunity for international study on a topic of your choice related to your farming enterprise. While I wasn’t successful, I’m still keen to explore the topic of improving productivity, profitability and innovation in boutique olive groves.
  5. Co-operatives as a business structure. While this may seem a bit of a non sequitur, my research on the previous point about improving productivity, profitability and innovation in boutique groves has led me to discover co-ops in all their glory. Co-operatives have been a big part of the farming landscape for many years, because they do help create a supportive network in a challenging industry. There are many different types of co-ops but the thing they have in common is that they exist to better the conditions and outcomes for their members. You can have worker co-ops where the employees own the business as well as participate in the work that the business does. There are producer co-ops which purchase and market the products of primary production. Many bulk buying groups are operated as a co-operative structure. So many options exist and they can be for profit, or operate in the not-for-profit sector. In fact, I’ve been thinking so deeply about co-operatives that I’m working on the germ of an idea around a small scale olive grower co-op at the moment, so watch this space. Alternatively, please get in touch via return email if you’d like some more info or to get involved. Personally I think it can only benefit us all.

As ever, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions about other topics as well. I’d love to know if there’s information you feel is missing from the grove tasks calendar, or if you’d like to share something you wish you’d known about earlier in your own olive growing journey. You can also comment on this post if you feel so inclined 🙂