The story behind Quartz Hill (by co-founder Deb)

The story behind Quartz Hill (by co-founder Deb)

 I never imagined being a farmer.  

It was a steep learning curve, involving new trade skills maintaining everything from tractors to harvesting equipment. We have to maintain over 16km of irrigation line, constantly being molested by large numbers of kangaroos, which graze freely throughout our grove (maybe they are our secret fertilisers! ).

Knowledge on soil quality and health, nutrition, weed control, disease prevention, and olive oil production and preservation needs to be acquired. We soon discovered there was no such thing as a successful but ignorant farmer!

First harvest

Our first harvest was 2008 just six months after buying the farm. The trees were small which was just as well as we had no idea what we were doing. We used tiny hand rakes to harvest which is painfully inefficient especially when you have 1,600 trees! Within a couple of years we’d transitioned to electric rakes and harvesting yields increased significantly.

A focus on always doing better

Each year we consider what we could do better to produce high quality oil. We don’t always enter completions but it is a good way to have the oil peer reviewed and laboratory test the oil. Our oils are very high in polyphenols and it’s good to know how this is tracking from year to year.We won our first Gold Medal at the Royal Agricultural Show in 2011 and of course this was hugely satisfying.

Why is our oil so good? 

People often tell us our oil is amazing. Why?

It’s the combination and flavour profile of our different olives that works. Our olive grove is dominated by the Italian super cultivars - frantoio and leccino. Frantoio oil is very fruity, aromatic and well-balanced by a good measure of pepperiness and bitterness. Oil made exclusively from Leccino olives is pale, mellow and delicate. Only 6% of our grove is the Spanish picual olive tree. Picual oils are lighter and fresher but also bitter and pungent. They are also very high in polyphenols which gives a long shelf life.

Harvesting each variety at the right time is also key. Leccino olives are best harvested when they have turned purple whereas frantoio are best harvested when they are half purple and half green. And of course they don’t all ripen at the same time! But it is the combination of the varieties and their ripening stages that provides the distinctive flavour of our oil.

What I love about the region

I love the quality and variety of producers in the Macedon Ranges, producing everything from black garlic to pinot and chardonnay wines, cheeses, chocolates, truffles and artisan bread. And it’s not just the variety but the quality of produce. The climate can be challenging with hot summers and near freezing winters but understanding your farm and leaning into those characteristics can enhance the quality of produce. 

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