A couple of years ago, Binnaz and Ergun purchased an olive grove as a future revenue source for the ASKEV foundation. The grove has about 1,000 olive trees, mostly old with a few newer ones. Since the purchase, they have done additional work to make the grove conform to high-quality agriculture standards with automated irrigation and fertilizing, pruning for the optimum harvest height, and the like. It is located about 7-8 miles from the center of Ayvalik and the access is through some rough roads. Ilhan told us that in the rainy season, even the tractors have difficulty moving in the soil that becomes almost like glue.
Mustafa navigated the rough roads in the BMW and we made it to the grove. The weather was on the overcast side but still pleasant. We drove to where the harvesting team was working to see them in action. Much of the work was done by hand, sometimes using simple tools that looked like small rakes. To reach the top branches, some workers used a device that essentially brought a larger version of the hand tool to higher branches and shook them using an attached motorized device.
All the olives ended up on the tarps spread on the ground as the workers tried to minimize bruising the olives due to free fall. The olives were packed in plastic crates and transported to the processing facility operated by Kursat where they are either canned or pressed for olive oil. These early harvest olives are separated according to size, large ones called domat variety are prized pickled olives that are meaty and very tasty. Smaller ones are used for early harvest, cold-pressed olive oil. The early harvest olive oil is very tasty and smooth with a slight bite on the back of the tongue. Olive oil has a shelf life of about one year and it gradually loses its character.
On our first visit, it started raining slightly after about 30-40 minutes and we decided it was time to get back home. The following day, the weather was a good deal better even showing some patches of blue skies. We went back to the grove following the same rough terrain. Elif found a tree that had an opening in the middle of it, who knows how it happened. And, while taking photographs at the grove, I wanted to get a little higher for a better view. They brought one of the ladders used to reach the high branches and I climbed a few steps to take photographs from a higher vantage point. These photographs are here thanks to Jan who snapped them with her phone. You will notice the photographs I took from the ladder towards the end of the collection and can spot them by their looks.
All in all, the visits to the Melin Olive Grove were very pleasant and we got a hint of the future of the grove. It will be great for it to succeed in selling its high-quality olives and olive oil to generate additional revenues that provide scholarships to the needy and deserving students. Best of luck Ergun, ASKEV Foundation, and all the people who coordinate this work. Unfortunately, we will probably not be able to buy Melin Olives and Melin Olive Oil here in the States! We still have a couple of pounds of olives we brought with us from Turkey though.
Let us visit the grove together through the photographs below.