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30/09/2021

An ancient tradition that reinvents itself: the evolution of the ‘verdeo’.

Agrosevilla

As if it were a ritual, the ‘verdeo’ takes place year after year as the end and beginning of a new cycle of the olive grove. A cycle that moves to the rhythm of the seasons: from the first buds that sprout to flowering, from flowering to fruit setting, from setting to veraison (change of colour) and once again the harvest. Throughout the year, farmers use all their knowledge and experience in the care of the olive grove.

It is precisely the years of experience of the traditional ‘verdeo’ that has allowed farmers and the sector to perfect techniques, modernize and adapt them to more optimized, agile and effective processes that the present day demands. However, in each farm the ‘verdeo’ is experienced in a very different way. In family farms almost like an annual meeting, where older manual techniques are used; meanwhile, many of the large olive farms opt for a higher level of mechanization during the process.

From the ‘macaco’ to the buggy, when tradition and modernity meet

The traditional olive harvesting technique par excellence is ‘ordeño’. This is a laborious hand-harvesting procedure, where the olives are allowed to fall into a basket that the labourers carry on their shoulders, known as a ‘macaco’. Intended more for harvesting the manzanilla and gordal varieties, which must be harvested by hand, as well as on small farms and family land, the ‘ordeño’ technique is still used, since many residents of the towns where our partner cooperatives are established collect the olives that they season and preserve for the whole year in this way.

However, the ‘verdeo’ techniques have evolved over the centuries and in the table olive sector the process is very different. Today, the traditional ‘ordeño’ is replaced by more agile techniques with a higher level of mechanization in the varieties that allow it, such as our hojiblanca. Even so, there are two main techniques that can be seen in Andalusian olive groves.

The ‘vareo’ and ‘peinado’ of the olive

Using a ‘vara’ (stick), which normally vibrates or is mechanized to facilitate the fall of the olive, the laborers ‘varean’ the olive tree and make the olives fall on a net or skirt at the foot of the olive tree. At this point, the experience and know-how 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.

After the ‘vareo’, the labourers carry out a first sweep over the mesh to remove the fallen leaves and branches. Once clean, strength is needed to carry the net loaded with olives to the tractor.

The buggy with mechanized umbrella

Another step in the mechanization of the harvesting process is the use of mechanized umbrellas. This is a device attached to the front of a buggy or tractor that, when opened, completely surrounds the olive tree. In addition to the work of the operators, there is a vibrating mechanism at the center that shakes the trunk of the olive tree and makes the branches vibrate so that the olives fall. The tractor itself is in charge of emptying the olives into the trailer container.

So ends one more day of ‘verdeo’ in the Andalusian olive groves, the day laborers go home to rest and prepare for another day of harvesting. To reap the fruits of a whole year of work, dedication and sacrifice.

From Agrosevilla, we wish the best of harvests for our farmers and member cooperatives.