Part 2 - Small producer case study: Eagle Vale Olives

Awarded Australia’s best green table olives, Western Australian family-owned and operated Eagle Vale Olives is a niche farming success story.

Quality the key
The whole process of harvest, storage and transport is critical in the production of both table olives and oil.

Storage in cool temperatures with no exposure to the air is vital.

Olive oil, like fruit juice, goes rancid very quickly if not kept in pristine condition.

“Part of our job is to educate the consumer of correct food storage practices so that quality can be maintained,” Leanne said.

Filtered olive oil will keep well for up to two years if stored in the correct conditions.

First pitting and slicing machine in Western Australia

Eagle Vale Olives commissioned Western Australia’s (WA) first pitting and slicing machine. Previously, pitted olives were only available in WA as an imported product from Spain and Italy.

Customers were continuously asking after fresh local pitted olives which drove Eagle Vale Olive’s decision to invest in the hi-tech machine.

The machine, which was purchased from Seville, Spain, and allowed them to sell local pitted olives to gourmet stores and supermarkets across WA.

Grazing the grove
Sheep are an integral part of Eagle Vale's olive operation. They run 200-300 merinos, sometimes buying in fat lambs during winter to sell into the spring market.

The sheep graze the grass between the rows of olive trees, reducing the fire risk and controlling the weeds. When the pasture becomes too short the sheep begin to eat the bark and the olives on the trees.

At this point the sheep are removed from the grove. Some will be sold while others are relocated to new pasture. The feed situation determines what number they carry from year to year. They also grow some oaten hay used for supplementary feeding during Autumn.

The drive to diversify
“Our survival has depended on diversification. People are always asking what new products we have available and it’s grasping these opportunities and finding out what people want which has helped the business to expand and meet market demand.

"The business went from only producing olives for oil to marinating the olives and including tapenade and dukkah into the product mix,” Leanne said.

Today the business has a whole range of natural EVOO skin care products and gift hampers.

Marketing - a full-time job
“When we are not harvesting, the marketing and development of our products is a full-time job. We employ a full-time staff member who markets our products to restaurant chefs, delis and gourmet grocery stores.

"The fact that we are a local, family-owned business gives us a lot of traction amongst these food outlets.

"Taste-testing at various supermarkets also gets our brand out there and we run these in Perth and in the larger centres of northern WA,” Leanne said.

The website has been instrumental in marketing and sales of Eagle Vale Olives products. The list of outlet stores to which Eagle Vale Olives supply can be viewed on the website as well as their long list of national awards since 2002.

Acknowledgement
This article is courtesy of WA small landholder service.

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