On our farm the greatest efforts are made to practise sustainable farming. Nature-based agriculture is an assurance of high quality produce at a fair price for the consumer and a reasonable profit for the farmer. Green manure (sovescio in Italian) is one of the best contribution to sustainable agriculture.
Green manure is obtained by growing "cover crops" at the end of the season to prepare the soil for the succeeding one. Cover crops become green manure by ploughing in just before ripeness into seeds/fruit. The primary function of green manure is to increase soil fertility without the use of any chemical fertilisers or pesticides.Fava beans are one of the most commonly used cover crops for improving olive orchard soil fertility. Fava beans are planted/sowed at the end of olive harvesting season around November/December and grown until March/April.
The photo above shows our orchard in early April with fava plants ready to be ploughed in. Favas belong to the legume family and are particularly beneficial to olive soil because they produce a significant amount of biomass, plus their leguminous nature enriches the soil with a large amount of nitrogen.
At Azienda Agricola Gorrasi green manure in conjunction with animal manure are very important to produce our high quality Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. We definitely aim at making an ecosystem of our farm rather than a factory.
If we go to a grocery shop we usually find a wide range of Olive Oil and few labelled as Extra Virgin. The latter is rightly considered premium Olive Oil, top of quality and the most expensive.
A true Extra Virgin Olive oil is immune from defects and it has a “fruity” taste of fresh olives. In fact, it should be the result of cold-pressing or mechanical pressing of fresh and integer olives.
From a chemical point of view there are specific parameters that qualify an Olive Oil as “Extra Virgin”. These are the most important:
Oleic Acidity is certainly the most popular parameter among consumers. It is a qualitative indicator. The higher it is the lower is the quality of the oil. The degree of Acidity is directly correlated with fatty acids which are consequence of hydrolysis. Acidity provides an indicator of how olives are treated from harvesting to milling. Good quality requires olives to be harvested at the right degree of ripeness, properly stored and pressed as soon as possible: ideally within 24-48 hours from harvesting.
Peroxide, K 270, K 232 and Delta K indexes are parameters that help detecting the oxidation of the oil and also help detecting possible blends or adulterations with other refined oils.
In practice, producing an Olive Oil that meets all the above parameters is not difficult: it requires correct harvesting and mechanical pressing within 24-48 hours. Unfortunately, there is a quicker and much cheaper alternative: adulteration and blending of refined oils. Of course in this case quality is low to the point that the product could be bad for consumer health.
How can consumers be sure of buying a genuine Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Unfortunately just reading labels is not always a guarantee of quality. The ideal solution is buying from olive farmers or as close as possible to a milling plant. The majority of consumers cannot buy from a farmer or an oil mill, in this case check the price. Bringing on the shelves an Extra Virgin Olive Oil at a price below Euro 6 per litre it is a very hard challenge.
In supermarkets we can buy plenty of olive oil, many varieties with a wide range of prices. Why bothering buying from a producer? It requires time and it is more expensive. This is how it looks but...
Let's talk about quality and price, focusing on high quality olive oil only.
Producing high quality extra virgin olive oil implies level of costs that do not differ much between small and big producers. Harvesting techniques for the producer with 500 olive trees are similar to those adopted by a producer with few thousands trees. Consequently, synergies due to economies of scale do not have a significant impact in this sector.
In Italy, the cost to produce a litre of high quality extra virgin olive oil is between four and five Euro. This is the pure production cost when the product is leaving the pressing plant. It does not include stocking, bottling, labelling, marketing, distribution and commercial costs.
How can it be possible to buy olive oil labelled "extra virgin" in the supermarkets for prices in a range between three to six Euro? Sometimes we find so called "extra virgin" even below three Euro for the 0.75 bottle.
Prices below a certain level can be justified only with lower quality. A litre of high quality extra virgin olive oil, simply cannot land on our dining table for less than eight Euro.
As producers, we have decided to propose our product directly to the consumer. Cost saving for not using intermediaries and distribution industry allows consumer saving and investments to maintain high quality standards.
If you would like to try our super quality extra virgin olive oil, please order at our store.