José Antonio Triano García
My family comes from a small village in the north of the province of Huelva at the beginning of Sierra Morena, a 400 km mountain range that runs through most of northern Andalusia.
My first memories in the olive grove take me back to the harvest season when we used to go with the whole family and when I was 5 years old, I used to fall asleep in the rigging of “Mirla” and “Tuerto” (our two donkeys). The help that these animals provided is incalculable, as is their loyalty. They were two more members of the family.
I decided to move to the city to study agricultural engineering with the aim of returning home with knowledge and being able to use it on the farm. Due to family problems, a few months before finishing university, I had to return to the village to take over the olive grove at the age of 24.
After half a life there, I can say that the phrase that best represents my feeling for the farm is: “with you because you kill me, without you because I die”. Living from the farm on a small scale is very difficult because it is not very profitable and I have always had to combine it with other jobs. Even so, I can’t imagine a life without it as it is one of my greatest sources of satisfaction and relaxation.
The opportunity that GOURE gives me is to make my product known to consumers interested in the people, the environment and the traditional activity behind each bottle of extra virgin olive oil that we produce.
Our olive grove is mainly Moorish variety olive trees. This type of olive tree is traditionally appreciated for the large size of its olives (they can exceed 7 grams). The olive has a deep black colour when ripe and its shape, elongated with a beak (nipple), is similar to that of an acorn.
Different studies confirm that the variety was introduced during the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (11th century). So when we say that our olive trees are centenary, we mean that our olive trees are more than 700 or 800 years old! 😮
Although it may seem that they are too old, the fact is that the productive life of an olive tree is more than 1,500 years.
Our olive trees are characterised by being very vegetative, in other words, very likely to grow new stems and branches, which means that we have to be very careful with their maintenance, otherwise the olive tree grows very quickly and does not manage to develop its fruit properly. The olive trees are also very alternating in their production (a lot one year, a little the next). While the 2021-22 season was incredible and lasted four months, the 2022-23 season was finished in less than a month 🙁.
Most of the olive groves are south-facing and located in sunny areas. These are the areas where the sun shines the most. This means that the olives lack humidity and acidity, which gives us an olive oil with little bitterness.
In a good harvest year, which happens every 4 or 5 years, we can harvest between 30 and 35 thousand kilos of olives by hand. In total we have around 3,000 century-old mountain olive trees.
The olive harvest takes place between November and January. It involves the whole family and different workers that we employ during the season. All the harvesting is carried out manually with “varas” (long thin sticks) and blankets. The “varas” are used to hit and shake the tree, while the blankets are placed on the ground where the olives fall. The Morisca variety is highly resistant to detachment, which makes it even more difficult to harvest.
Once the harvesting season is over, the sheep enter the olive grove and feed on the olive branches that are pruned and the little grass that remains. In spring, the flock enjoys the olive grove, rotating from parcel to parcel and grazing the abundant fresh grass. After the summer, the sheep return to the olive grove to clear the land of vegetation before the harvest season. The flock is without doubt the best herbicide and pesticide we know. This traditional practice has always been carried out. This is how we learned it from our elders and this is how we pass it on to our children.
Our farm is a small family farm divided into small parcels that we have inherited and bought over the years. The total surface area of all the parcels is approximately 30 hectares.
One of the qualities of the farm is its great biodiversity. We can find areas where the olive tree cohabits with holm oaks and fig trees, others where it cohabits with cork oaks and others where the olive grove disappears due to the density of the forest. This singularity makes our olive grove very special for both domestic and wild fauna.
The fig trees play a fundamental role as they serve as food for our flock of sheep. As far as wildlife is concerned, the olive grove is particularly important for migratory birds, which find refuge and shelter there for a large part of the year. Some arrive during the summer season, such as the Black Kite (Milano Negro), while others arrive during the winter season, such as the Crag Martin (Avión Roquero). Our olive oil is a tribute to these birds.