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I don’t know about you but I’ve always been drawn to schemes where you can sponsor or adopt something you care about in return for an acknowledgment, a product and usually a real sense of well-being at having supported a good cause.  I clearly remember our class in Primary School sponsoring a child in Africa and receiving a letter of thanks, my son once adopted a book in my name at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and now I’m about to adopt my very first Olive Tree!  And here’s why.

The team of four young people, Spaniards Álvaro de la Heras and Víctor Jiménez, Emeline Mourocq from France and Liliana Borges from Portugal, met on a research project in Granada and, perhaps jokingly at first, discussed starting their own bio-diversity project.  Talk became more serious and in October 2014 the four arrived at the finca on the outskirts of Prado del Rey and the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park with plans, tons of knowledge (check out their bios here – I’m in awe of them!) and bucket loads of enthusiasm but no actual experience of working with olive groves.


The team: L – R Álvaro, Víctor, Liliana and Emeline

Arriving at the start of harvesting, and faced with around 600 trees that had been neglected for many years, O-Live MedioAmbiente was born, onto land that was farmed by Víctor’s grandfather many years ago.


How gracious is this beautiful old tree

In that first year the 6 hectares which contain predominantly zorzaleña olives (similar to the Italian Leccino – a mild, sweet flavoured olive) produced 90 litres of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Fruit starts to appear on the trees in June and is harvested in the first week of October with last year’s harvest producing a very credible 500 litres of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from a crop of 2,500 kgs of olives.

Within three hours of harvest the olives travel 20 kms up to the road to the almazara (mill) where they’re immediately crushed and turned into ‘olive juice’ and within 48 hours the sediment has settled and they’re ready for bottling.  And the finished result: Oriole, named after the beautiful Golden Oriole, a songbird which visits the olive grove annually.

But it’s not only about the olives with this team, they have also installed 60 nest boxes, built small ponds to encourage amphibians to return and little dams to help prevent erosion as the site is on a slope and all the best soil ends up at the bottom of the grove whenever there’s a heavy downfall of rain.


A rabbit centre – kind of a community centre, but for rabbits!

They’ve introduced rabbit centres and described the rabbits as ‘eco system engineers’ as they help to spread seeds and provide vital food for the Lynx Eagles.  The nest boxes have attracted Blue Tits, Sparrows and Starlings and are proving particularly popular.

There are many ways to support the O-Live MedioAmbiente team, from joining them for their regular field trips, bird watching and hiking to membership, donations and volunteering to get your hands dirty!  Which leads me back to the my original point, sponsoring an olive tree.  All the details of their three different sponsorship levels are clearly set out on their website but what all three levels have in common is access to superb quality, artisan, single estate extra virgin olive oil produced by a team who are passionate about preserving their environment, developing methods to help rural farmers and improve biodiversity.


L-R Me, Álvaro, Víctor, Liliana and Julia who was visiting from Madrid to see her adopted tree!

For every new sponsor the team place a nest box in the grove allowing you to follow not only your own tree, but also the lifecycle of the birds from nest building right through to the young fledglings.

If you are anywhere near the area, or can plan a trip to visit the project in Sierra de Grazalema in Southern Spain you’ll receive a warm welcome, see at first hand the fabulous work they’re carrying out – and get to taste some great Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the bargain.  Check the guys out and let me know how you get on if you visit them.  My next blog will feature a tasting of their lovely olive nectar as I crack open a bottle of Oriole and try it for myself.  I’m particularly excited as it will be my first proper tasting of an unfiltered olive oil (the 50 or so EVOOs I tasted on the sommelier course don’t count because I’ve no idea what they all were!).

Until next time …