Stewart and Sarah MacPherson’s Karridale property is 20 minutes
south of Margaret River. There are relics of the property’s former life as an ill-fated tobacco farm in the early 1950s.
“At first, everyone thought we were crazy to do this,” says Sarah of their decision to plant one of the first olive orchards in the southwest. “Many
locals’ ancestors had worked so hard to clear the land of trees. They couldn’t understand why we’d plant them. It was a real step into the unknown.”
Luckily faith comes naturally to the couple. For more than 15 years they’ve served as Anglican priests in the region.
We were first introduced to olive trees while living for six months in Mojacar, Spain. Then, on a visit to Palestine, we saw 1000-year-old trees. Their extraordinary character, their resilience, speaks to us. They can handle quite
a lot of neglect while remaining forgiving.
Inspired, we returned home to plant 10 of their property’s 85 hectares with 1400 Kalamata, Manzanillo, California Mission, Frantoio and
California Queen olive trees.
The couple managed the watering, fertilising, pest control and pruning of their orchard. Each April, family members would fly in from Tasmania,
Queensland and the UK to help.
When Stewart underwent bypass surgery in 2007, the congregation pitched in to harvest the crop. “They helped us immensely,” says Stewart.
“After that, we felt like the oil belonged to the church, so for many years all of the profits go back to it.”
Karridale Olive Farm oil won gold medals as well as the award for Best Boutique Oil of The Perth Royal Show for two years running.
The wins were an incredible affirmation of what we’ve been doing.
The first time we were extremely pleased, but the second time we were stunned. It certainly suggested that we were doing something right.”
To what do we attribute the success of the our olive oil? Being 7km from
Hamelin Bay and 10km from the Southern Ocean makes it a little bit cooler than Margaret River. There’s also the black sand soils that add flavours of their own. Maybe even the pine trees on the property make a difference.
We don’t give the trees a large amount of water or fertiliser. We just give our trees a lot of attention and select our olives and the time of picking very carefully. The yield is really low, but the quality is very high.