We are Karen and Ian Juno. Our journey began in 1998 when we started looking at ideas to keep ourselves active in our retirement. We both came from farming backgrounds. Ian's family still farm near Waitomo glow worm caves and Karen's family who immigrated from Ireland and Lebanon settled in the Wairarapa.
We found our land on a freezing cold, wet winter day in June 2001. It was situated on the Tauherenikau straights 3km south of Greytown. We spent two hours walking around the property, which Karen new well. She recalls the Tauherenikau as being suitable for grazing and haymaking. Then we noticed a neighbour had planted 2500 young olive trees. Childhood memories came flooding back to Karen of family Christmases enjoyed picnicking under the olive trees at her Lebanese grandparent's home. Our journey was about to begin.
Birth of an olive grove
On a warm, drizzly spring day in 2001, we knelt on hands and knees and began planting our first 1280 olive trees. We had prepared the ground in the winter, marking out 6 x 6 metre rows, and manually "grass-grubbing" (digging out) thick rye grass to mark where each tree would be planted. Grass-grubbing was our chemical-free way to clear grass that would compete with our young trees for water and nutrients.
We bought an auger, drilled holes in the marked spaces and began planting a classic mix of Tuscan, Greek, Spanish and French cultivars. The auger brought large rocks to the surface. They were used to make stone walls and garden edging around the property.
Tree planting became a huge family affair. Karen's large Lebanese family and our friends came to help. Even Karen's sprightly 80 year old parents toiled away next to the young ones - kneeling, planting and tying young trees to stakes. We planted all through spring and summer into autumn 2002. Finally in April, our last tree was planted and we held a multicultural blessing on the grove to celebrate. Since then, another 800 olive trees have been planted along with a variety of fruit and nut trees, citrus, figs and other pip fruit. We have established a large vegetable garden and set aside five acres for a small vineyard.
Our first extra virgin olive oil was produced in 2006. It was stunning. The rich green-gold colour, herbaceous, grassy intensity and appealing peppery finish so characteristic of oil produced from Mediterranean cultivars.
In 2008 the quality of our oil was recognised. We won a silver medal at the 2008-09 New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards. This accolade confirmed that we were on our way to producing premium extra virgin olive oil without compromise.
In December 2008, we set up our olive shop. We restored three of the four old horse stables into a rustic olive shop, tasting room and bottling plant. We still commute to work in the city each day, but our journey has been worth it. We now have the best of both worlds. Our journey is almost complete.