22 February 2018: Australian olive growers ‘talent-spotted’ at a Farming Together event have claimed a top international award for their oil.
Karen and Bill McLennan submitted a sample of their Sommariva olive oil to a taste-training day at Toowoomba event in December. The day, funded by Farming Together, featured training by international sensory expert and olive oil taster Dr Richard Gawel, who recommended the couple submit their oil for international competition.
Last week, it took out the southern hemisphere bronze medal at the annual Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards in a field of more than 650 entries.
“He (Richard) was just over the moon with our olive oil,” Ms McLennan said. “He was the one who pushed us into entering the competition, he said we should definitely get it over to the LA competition.” (Dr Gawel pictured left).
Sommariva Olives, near Charleville, is the only olive grove in western Queensland. The family diversified into olives from their cattle business about 20 years ago. That was another decision that followed a friendly prompt. “We were trying to think of ways to bring further income to the property,” Karen said. “A friend of ours had recently toured Italy and said ‘you should have a go at growing olives because the environment and climate in your area is just like Italy’. So we researched into it and planted a trial block and they just thrived, so we just kept going.”
She attended the December tasting-tuition session organised by the Queensland Olive Council which had received $67,000 from Farming Together.
Project organiser Amanda Bailey, CEO of the Queensland Olive Council, recalled the day in Toowoomba: “In among the local oils there was an oil that everyone at the course was talking about, so we spoke to Sommariva Olives in Charleville and suggested they enter this oil into the next competition, which was the LA International Olive Oil Competition. The competition at this level is extremely competitive. I also believe this is the first time a Queensland oil has been entered into an international competition.”
Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said: “We congratulate the McLennans and are delighted to share in their success. This is what Farming Together is all about – listening to visionary farmers, sharing their passion and supporting them.”