The Lewis family are 4th generation farmers, starting from grandparents who pioneered in broad acre farming in Benjaberring (first siding west of Wyalkatchem in the central wheat belt) around WW1.
In 1988 we shifted to Chapman Valley in the Midwest to be closer to a major centre and for various family reasons.
We were familiar with wheat belt underground bore water, being hard to find at substantial flow rates, and usually salty.
Large catchment systems near us like the Avon and Mortlock Rivers only flowed for a short time.
Whereas, the Chapman Valley farm had the Chapman River running through it, and all year round, and from a small catchment area by comparison.
So we thought there might be a good water supply under this country, so let’s not die wondering!
From 2 water diviners’ pin points we drilled 17 holes of ~24 metres each to get 2 good ones capable of producing quantities relevant to irrigation requirements.
(the other holes all yielded quality water but only in household quantities).
With those 2 bores developed we engaged a hydrogeologist to facilitate procurement of a 95 mega litres/year licence.
Then, like the dog who chased the bus (what do you do once you’ve caught it?), was decision time about what to grow.
In 1998 olives were planted for various reasons including that they may survive on limited water if the bores ran dry. Given the amount of water available, a best guess at the time was that it was only enough to support ~60 acres (24 ha) of trees.
So with much more land than that to choose from it was logical to plant in our best red loam. That was the first strategy that we got right by accident.
The (house and drinking water) bore supply also supplies the press operation. This is essentially rain water that has been filtered through more than 20m of earth. Whilst a direct rain water supply sounds good, coming off shed rooves in reality it could contain bird waste and airborne dust from neighbouring paddocks, with a trace of crop herbicides.
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Olio)
It was fortuitous as it turned out because, whilst conventional wisdom at the time was that olives are hardy and will grow anywhere, the reality check since is that they seem to do better on good country.
We only discovered that later when our Extra Virgin Olive Oil (“EVOO”) started winning awards, in WA initially, then later in Sydney, Australian National, and Los Angeles competitions.
Trees were planted initially in 1999, then 2000, 2004 2005 & 2006; numbers making 6,000. Cropping began in 2004.
With our own tree shaker from day 1 of serious cropping (2005), then began the arduous process of long distance processing down south to York, Sinagra (North Perth), Gingin and even some to Boyup Brook to try out a press system that we liked the action of.
This was a hard grind for 11 harvests until eventually a press was purchased that did what we liked. So without even trying, we had 11 years’ experience on a variety of presses. That was the second strategy that we got right by accident. With that experience we bought in time for the 2016 harvest a 1 tonne/hour OMT (“Olive Machine of Tuscany”) which does the job of separating EVOO from the fruit in a centrifuge, without the need of a vertical separator as well (which most other presses seem to use).
It has been a journey, much learnt from available knowledge out there and some self-learnt tricks as well, towards making a good product.
Nothing beats experience, and with control throughout the whole process of growing and processing we’ve learnt a few more tricks as well.
This has been a “paddock to plate” experience……….
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If you'd like to find out more about Chapman River Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can reach us by phone call/text or email.