Emotional attachment to grove drives Woodburn Olives to persevere with small scale southern Riverina operation

When Vivienne and Tim Paramore bought about 100 hectares west of Walla in 2005 it came with 1100 olive trees, planted just a few years earlier.

Back then Australian olive oil was still a boutique product made mainly by hobby farmers.

Oil production has been on a steep climb, almost doubling year on year, and for quality and taste Australia is definitely punching above its weight but still only a third of the olive oil consumed in Australia is domestic. 

In 2015 national production was 11,000 tonnes but Australia consumed 42,000 tonnes.

While operations such as Boundary Bend, which owns the Red Island and Cobram Estates labels, have cost effective groves covering 3500 hectares, modern production remains costly and time consuming for small scale producers such as the Paramore’s Woodburn Olives.

“People like us are too small to compete with the prices that they have but our quality is extremely good,” Mrs Paramore said.

“We have it tested every year to be sure it is extra virgin and that we can make that statement.”

Woodburn Olives grows three Italian varieties –  frantoio, leccino and pendolino – which they blend to make a distinct, fresh grassy oil.

“The types mature at a different stage, we pick the whole lot in one hit because we just don’t have the time to go back through several times like. It makes an absolutely delicious olive oil,” she said.

Mr Paramore said each year about a third of the biennial trees, carrying 50 kilograms of fruit, “are pickable”.

This year’s crop will be picked within the next week to 10 days and sent to EV Olives, at Markwood for processing.

​“We might pick 10 tonne of fruit, and we would hope to get somewhere between 15 and 17 per cent oil,” Mr Paramore said, “for every tonne you’d be looking at 150-170 litres. The idea is to process them as quick as possible, we’re not far off processing them inside 24 hours.”

The sell mainly through word of mouth, with plenty of oil on pantry shelves across the southern Riverina where Mr Paramore also works as an agronomist.

Neighbouring free range egg producers West Walla Farm also stock it at their farmer’s market stall.