Olive business hidden in Hyden

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

In WA's eastern Wheatbelt, where rain is not always guaranteed and droughts and frosts are becoming more normal than a good year, it seems strange to stumble across a small but thriving boutique food business.

Thanks to some innovative thinking from George and Laura Green, and their daughter-in-law Kerrie, olive oil from their Terra Vista business in north Hyden is now highly renowned across the State.

Laura was born in Italy, in a town north-east of Rome, but said she had no interest or involvement in olives before moving to the eastern Wheatbelt almost 50 years ago, despite the trees being native to the Mediterranean region.

It was her husband George, whose passion for thinking outside the square, kickstarted the business in the mid 1990s.

According to Kerrie, who farms with husband Paul on the North Hyden property, George began the business by propagating one olive tree.

They now have 10,000 trees.

She said the olive trees were a great fit for the farm business, given their drought hardiness, long lifespan and love of hot summers and cold winters.

The attractive trees can also have the added benefit of acting as a windrow.

"In Italy, olive trees grow right through the rocky country," Laura said.

"They are an extremely tough plant, they just grow."

The trees are planted over 50ha of land, which would otherwise have been underperforming areas in the broadacre farm business.

The olives are harvested by hand in April and May each year, by shaking the tree, and catching the fruit in a fan like structure underneath.

While the trees are extremely drought tolerant, Kerrie said the higher rainfall years produce higher oil content.

"We planted dual-purpose olive trees so we can have table olives and also crush the olives for oil," she said.

The Greens have one industrial but old-fashioned Italian olive crusher and two presses housed in what used to be a thriving restaurant business on the farm.

Given farm and family commitments, the well-known Terra Vista authentic Italian restaurant has closed. In its heyday, the restaurant was patronised by locals and tourists from hundreds of kilometres away. But the Greens still make the delicious Terra Vista olive oil, selling to local businesses throughout the district.

While it's been a considerable investment of time, money and passion, Kerrie and Laura are both committed to the production of this niche product on their isolated property.

"At the beginning, none of us had any idea what we were doing," Kerrie said.

"But sometimes you have to go out on a limb and trust yourself.

"If you have a passion for something, you need to give it a go."

Since his foray into olives, George has now diversified into carobs, macadamias and pistachio trees.

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