Management in the olive mill

The water of Zakros flows in abundance and quality from the natural springs of the mountains into the river, then in the sea. A state program for the construction of a dam in our area to store this water, is under consideration. It is a gift of nature, that allows us to use it for the washing of the olive fruit in the mill, clean and in natural flow, without any additional energy use. After its use, it ends up in the sewage tanks for evaporation. A goal of the Cooperative for the future, provided that the respective resources allow it, is to construct a water recycling unit.
The leaves collected from the machines that remove them from the olive fruits, are collected in silos and distributed as quality feed to shepherds in our area, contributing to the production of excellent quality meat and dairy products. They contain bioactive ingredients, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which have antioxidant properties. A program of selection and usage for the purposes of research and development of new products is under assessment currently.
At the end of the olive oil production process, using a centrifugal machine, the olive kernel (stone) and the rest of the solid residues are separated from the oil and stored to be sent to kernel oil mills. It is the raw material for the production of crude kernel oil, as well as of fuel, for the production of energy that can be used, among other applications, in domestic heating, as a cheaper and eco-friendly alternative to other fuels. The olive tree, is blessed, a gift to humans, all of it, up to its last millimeter.

Olive growing

An olive tree of the Koroneiki variety, around 50 years of age, can give about 150 kilos of olive fruit. The Koroneiki olives, almost a monoculture in Zakros, may be small in size, but produce delicious, quality and aromatic olive oil. As for proportions, one needs about 4 kilos of olives to produce one kilo of olive oil, if picked within November to December. In January, about 3 kilos of olives produce 1 kilo of olive oil. These months are the best timeframe for the olive harvest, because the fruit is at the proper ripening stage. It is ripe enough to produce more and better-quality olive oil, with a distinct fruity taste. In October, the olive fruits are harvested for the production of early harvest olive oil or “agoureleo”. At that time, 7 kilos of olives are needed to produce one kilo of olive oil, using the means currently at our disposal. Despite the lower yield, this olive oil, the “omfakinon” or “omotrives”, according to our ancient ancestors, has a strong pungent (spicy) taste and burning sensation in the throat, an indication of a particularly high concentration of antioxidants.
Our products are produced with a rational use of plant protection and soil improvement products, in accordance with the EU standards, so that they are completely safe for human consumption. We are constantly investing in healthy harvesting, by applying many of the practices of organic farming, such as traps and ground bait sprays against the fruit fly. The conversion of a conventional olive cultivation to a completely organic one is a process that takes time; however, it is being implemented in selected olive groves and we aspire to launch the respective product on the market soon, satisfying the interest of our clientele.

Challenges and goals

Our current goal is to develop our production process in conformity with the requirements of the Integrated Management System. We are working on sustainability - oriented cultivation methods and invest in research and development of new products and services. We are working on establishing our brand identity and direct contact with our consumers. Our main goal is for olive oil consumers to get to know our region, the lifestyle revolving around the olive tree, and the true value of the product, which lies in its contribution to health and to the preservation of rural communities, so that they can smoothly produce real food, for the whole world.
Challenges arise whenever there are intense climate alternations, such as extreme heat and prolonged drought. Along with the south winds, these affect fruit setting. Within the NATURA protected area of the Zakros Mountains and the Sitia Geopark, any intervention in the natural landscape and its sensitive biodiversity could pose a threat to the balance of the wider ecosystem. We preserve the “virgin” character of our natural environment, which constitutes an integral part of the variety and quality of the foodstuffs produced here, for the whole world. Olive oil is a human right, and we want to continue working on its production and distribution, as did whole generations before us, for at least 4000 years.

Labor force recruitment

The offer is satisfactory; however, we are always open to new collaborations, as there is plenty of work to go around! Our workforce consists of the producers’ families, of residents of the area, as well as of seasonal workers covering our needs and ensuring a quick harvest and transfer of the fruits to the olive mill within a few hours. Then, the speed of production, done in two lines using a common (joint) milling system, ensures the freshness and vitality of the fruit, offering its natural juice. Harvesting period is a celebration to us and, traditionally, one of the most joyful times of the year. We are happy to offer work to people who are not just eager to make a living, but who also appreciate the contact with earth and nature, performing a task that is perfectly compatible with human nature and the functionality of the human body. Recruitment starts in October. For more information, you can submit your request to [email protected].

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