SA Life Magazine story, February 2015

SA Life Magazine story, February 2015, continued:

Grove Manager, Tony Stevens (Stevo, Moses, The Bearded One, etc.)

Our Story:  

Nangkita Olives began in 1998 as a syndicate of five members, former grazier Andrew Fisher, his son, marketing executive Sam Fisher, Andrew's son in law, estate agent and city councillor Richard Hayward, solicitor and Cricket Australia Chairman Jack Clarke and Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison.  Andrew Fisher was the managing partner, progressively establishing the grove at a 100 acre site on Bull Creek Road, just north east of Nangkita.

The establishment of the grove was overseen by Anthony (Stevo) Stevens from the neighbouring property. Stevo's local knowledge of  the soil, climate and topography, together with his experience and fastidious approach, ensured the creation of a beautiful olive grove which is now undisputed as one of the highest quality producers in the nation.

The first trees planted were 3000 of the Barnea variety, reputed to be fast growing and prolific producers.  These trees have been reliable and productive over the years and while not generally regarded as premium quality oil producers, Nangkita Barnea consistently wins show awards and is in demand for its clean and neutral flavour. Subsequently, a similar number of the Italian Frantoio and Leccino varieties were planted.  Lastly, Greek varieties, Kalamata and Koroneiki and some Pendolino completed the grove.  The Italian and Greek varieties, are generally regarded as premium oil producers and have performed very well for Nangkita Olives.

After 10 years, establishing the grove, Andrew Fisher retired and the grove was taken over by Karl Chehade on a lease-to-purchase arrangement.  Ultimately, Chehade failed to complete the agreement and management was resumed by the Nangkita Olives syndicate. Syndicate member Michael Harbison, having just retired as Lord Mayor took over as managing partner. One of Harbison's first initiatives was to enter the Nangkita oils in the Royal Adelaide Show/OlivesSA competition. To Michael's surprise, Nangkita won several medals and was awarded "Best South Australian Oil".

This surprising turn of events encouraged Harbison to buy out his partners and focus on producing olive oil of the highest possible quality. In every subsequent year, Nangkita Olives have won gold medals , Best in Class and Champions in the Sydney Royal Fine Foods, Perth Royal, Royal Adelaide and Australian Olive Association competitions.

Under Michael Harbison's management the olives have been crushed at Diana Olive Press on Malpas Road at Willunga.  The late proprietor of Diana, Vince Scarfo attributed Nangkita's exceptional quality to the farm's microclimate and soil. Specifically, the milder summer environment avoided the forced ripening seen in many other olive groves, even on the Fleurieu Peninsula.  Nangkita Olives is also lucky to enjoy irrigation with spring water of exceptionally low salinity.  Each year now, Nangkita olive trees produce up to 250 tonnes of olives.  The olives are picked early to ensure a high polyphenol content and fresher flavour.  As a consequence, oil yields are lower than neighbouring farms, where the olives are left to ripen and soften to achieve the maximum oil yield.  

This season 2015, Nangkita oils won; Champion Varietal and three Gold medals in the Sydney Royal Fine Foods Competition.  Champion Varietal and a Gold Medal in the Perth Royal Show.  Three Gold medals in the Royal Adelaide Show.  Best in Show, Chefs' Choice and two Gold medals in the Fleurieu Peninsula Olive Awards.  Best in Show at the Gawler Show.

In 2015 Nangkita Olives hosted an Open Day for the first time. The event was very popular and 120 people enjoyed food, wine and olives and took tours in the grove to see harvesting, picking and pruning and learn the different varieties.  Tasting classes conducted by Australia's chief olive oil judge, Richard Gawel, entertained and informed a new generation of olive fans.

This year 2016, Sunday May 8th from 10am-4pm, the open day will be expanded to become the Fleurieu Olive Harvest Open Day as part of Tasting Australia.  Admission will still be free and the event will be expanded to include more Fleurieu producers, together with music, food, wine and other local produce.  It promises to be a wonderful day among the olive trees.