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24/11/2020

A day in the table olive harvest season

Agrosevilla
 

One of the most extraordinary table olive harvest seasons in living memory has finished. The current health crisis caused by COVID-19, which forced new security measures to be taken, can be added to an extremely dry, hot  summer without rainfall, which caused a quick olive harvest.

However, none of these factors have prevented this millennial tradition from being celebrated in Andalusian olive groves for yet another year. A tradition that transcends agriculture and is established as a cultural landmark in many municipalities. In such a unique year, we wanted to immortalize and introduce this tradition to the rest of the world.

Perhaps it goes without saying, because many of you will already know: the ‘verdeo’ refers to the process of harvesting olives when they are still in an early stage of the ripening process, so timing is a key factor when it comes to ensuring product quality. Join us to learn how a typical day is spent during the harvest of Andalusian table olives.

Different ways of spending a day in an Andalusian olive grove

Dawn breaks in the Andalusian fields and the crews prepare for a new day. Dressed in gloves, a hat or scarf for the sun and a mask to face the new normal in the olive grove. However, this ritual is not the same on all farms, since there are many varied harvesting techniques that have been implemented throughout the history of the ‘verdeo’, or table olive harvest season.

Traditionally, olives were harvested using the ‘ordeño’ (milking) technique. A laborious procedure done by hand, letting the olives fall into a basket known as a ‘macaco’, hanging from the shoulders of the laborer. Today people like Juanita and Manolo, from Herrera, continue to use this technique. This couple picks the olives with the same painstaking care as in the past. Once the ‘macaco’ is filled, the contents are emptied into larger baskets and from there to the tractor trailer, to later be transferred into containers.

 

Obviously, olive picking techniques during the ‘verdeo’ have evolved over the centuries. Today, the traditional ‘ordeño’  technique has been replaced by more agile techniques with a higher level of mechanization.

In the majority of Andalusian farms, tools are used to 'shake' the olive tree and make the olives fall onto a net at the foot of the olive tree or an inverted 'umbrella'. At this point, the knowledge of the farmer is essential, since the olive tree crown must be shaken in a very specific way, to prevent the tree or the fruit from being damaged.

Once the olive tree has been ‘shaken’, it is time to collect the olives that have fallen onto the nets or ‘fardones’ to transport them. The workers carry out a first sweep on the net to remove any leaves and branches that may have fallen. After sweeping, it is time to use strength to carry the net loaded with olives to the tractor.

Another step in the mechanization of the harvesting process is the use of mechanized umbrellas, an implement attached to the front of a buggy or tractor and that, when opened, completely surrounds the olive tree. In addition to the work of the operators, a shaker is installed in the center that makes the branches shake and the olives fall into the ‘umbrella’. Once all the olives have been collected from the olive tree, they are taken to the container and the process begins again.
 

After the hard work, the long-awaited “sandwich time” arrives, to sit under the shade of an olive tree, recharge and chat with colleagues. Of course, in times like these, the moment has been marked by social distancing and staggered shifts. Measures that do not prevent day laborers from enjoying their well-deserved rest.

The day comes to an end and the farmers gather their tools ready to go home, rest and prepare for a new day at work. As you may have seen, the work of the crews in the table olive harvest season is arduous, constant and requires a deep knowledge of harvesting techniques to pick the fruit with maximum guarantees of quality and safety.

At Agro Sevilla we have the privilege of counting on authentic experts in olive grove care. The know-how of our farmers is key to the excellence of our table olives, the great treasure of Agro Sevilla as a company.