In the grove
James and Jenny Bourke started Perricoota Olives 16 years ago, when they decided to leave behind suburban living in Moama for a more defined tree change.
Mr Bourke said the 1,600 tree olive grove had only been established two years when they made a permanent move to the property just outside Womboota.Initially, Mr Bourke shared his time between olive farming and his engineering business. But five years ago the farm became his sole focus.“We knew nothing of olives except they tasted alright,” he laughed.May and June are the busiest months on the farm, when harvest is at full steam.“It keeps you on your toes for about a month of the year,” Mr Bourke said.The ‘table olives’ are picked earlier in the season, after which they move on to the Kalamatas and other varieties.The olive business has not been without it’s challenges for the Bourkes. A lack of irrigation water led the Bourkes to pool their resources with seven other growers from their immediate area, to build themselves a private pipeline. Luckily, it’s one of only a few struggles the Bourkes have faced since taking on the olives. One other was finding ways to make the harvest easier.“At harvest time we have a family come in to help, and we employ some young backpackers as well,” Mr Bourke said.COVID-19 related travel restrictions caused some headaches last year. Initially the Bourkes had access to backpackers stuck in Australia unable to return home, but once those restrictions eased and they all moved on or made for home, help was hard to come by.So the Bourkes are taking a more mechanical approach this time around by hiring a contractor to “shake” the trees, which have now grown tall in their maturity.Once harvest is complete, in July, the Bourkes will prune their trees. They will be watered up and monitored in the warmer months, when the cycle begins again.Perricoota Olives produces table olives and “the very best” for use in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mr Bourke said his favourite variety is the Corregiolla. They also farm Frantoio, Manzanillo, Barnea and Kalamata olives. Their olive oil is a premium product which is delivered in the customer’s choice of one, two, and four litre casks.Mr and Mrs Bourke said their favourite part of the business is being able to meet people from different cultures when they sell at farmers’ markets.“Because Echuca-Moama is a tourist area, we meet people from all over the world,” Mr Bourke said.Mr Bourke is in his 60s and said while the rigours of running a farm can be tough, he’s got a few more years in him yet.“We’ve got a nice home here, and we enjoy it,” he said.