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A few weeks ago we shared our views on sustainability. We would like to thank you for all your emails in response. We mentioned that "Our cultivation and harvesting processes have been developed to minimize the impact to the environment, while managing the required human labor."
In this post, we would like to elaborate a bit more on this, and give you some further insight into a few very simple practices which we actively apply in our farm, in order to develop sustainability:
On Image 1 below, you can see branches and leaves from the olive trees and other bushes, forming a line between the trees. These branches are a form of waste as they are no longer useful for the farm.
A common practice among farmers in different countries to get rid of this waste, is to burn these branches. This will create further waste, CO2 and other harmful for the ozone layer substances.
At OOFTS, we have ingeniousely developed a way to transform them in organic fertilizer, and to protect the soil from the UV radiation from the burning sun in the summer.
To do this, we crush them and spread them around the farm, forming a "blanket" above the soil. This has a twofold benefit:
1. Once the leaves start the decomposition process, they will be turned into fertilizer material for the soil, help the trees develop further grow.
2. On top of that, the blanket will protect the soil from burning under the blazing summer sun, allowing moisture to be maintained at higher levels throughout the year.
The olives that fall on the ground are usually too ripe to produce high quality olive oil and are therefore another form of waste in a typical olive tree farm. Picking them up takes time and selling them is usually not worth the effort, due to their low quality. As a result, most farmers let them sit and decompose on the ground. This can have severe impact to the environment, as the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae) will nest in them and multiply throughout the winter. This fly can with good reason be called "fear of the olive tree farmer", as it can eat the olive fruit of 100s of trees in a few days, and thus destroy a year's worth of yield (see image 3 below). It is one of the main reasons why many farmers use chemical and poisonous fertilizers, in an effort to relieve their trees from this fly.
At Olive Oil from the Sea, we recognize this issue and with sustainability as a guide, we have found a way to go about it, despite some extra labor and cost. We use the "hedgehog" to pick these olives up, in order not to allow the olive fruit fly to populate the soil. We then either sell it to the industry at a very low price, to be used as a non-edible oil (as a lubricant or engine oil), or use it locally in our farm as a lubricant in chain saws and other tools, as a environmentally-friendly alternative of petrol or diesel oil.
It is one of our methods to turn a negative process into one that creates added value.
Picture 2 - Olives attacked by the olive fruit fly.
Picture 3 - Yiorgos with a fresh batch of olives picked from the ground
Video: A round of cleaning the ground olives from leaves and rocks, and bagging them for pressing
Our farm starts at sea level and climbs up to hilly-mountain terrain. The use of machines at this hilly and rocky environment is not a feasible option. Centuries now, we have learned to collect the olives from the trees using our hands and sticks.
The branches of the trees are therefore not harmed, and as a result they can blossom each year! (a thank you from their side to us)
Picture 4 - Cyclamens growing between the trees, following the rainfall season.
Practice 4 is related to something we strongly avoid doing.
It is a sad truth that in many (espicially big) olive tree farms, night shift (harvesting olives after sunset), is a common practice in order to maximize efficiency. This is a very dangerous practice, as it can lead to the killing of birds that nest in the trees and are fast-asleep during night-time.
The huge olive harvesing beasts (like the ones collecting hay or corn) will sweep the farms during night time with their blinding torches, collecting all the fruit on the trees, along with the animals that nest in them.
(as an example, see here).
It is self explanatory, that we strongly and actively denounce such practices.
Thank you for reading! We are looking forward to your feedback. Send your comments and views to firstname.lastname@example.org, we will gladly respond to them!
As usual, we leave you with a beautiful view from our office currently, while writing this blog post!