Category Archives: Farmers

At Okanagan
Feast of Fields

Amelia Oil at Okanagan Feast of Fields – Sunday August 22 – Brock Farm, Okanagan Falls

We were excited to be part of the Okanagan Feast of Field of Fields event this year. This is the annual fundraiser for Farm Folk City Folk.

We shared a booth with our friends Cam and Dana, the wonderful chefs who run Joy Road Catering. We were also joined by, Tim from Sweet Pit Heirloom Tomatoes.

Dana’s artisan sourdough bread was grilled on site and topped with Tim’s colourful tomatoes and fresh basil with a liberal drizzle of Amelia Oil.- heaven !

Joy Road Catering, are the people who do the fabulous wine maker’s dinners at God’s Mountain. Dana makes some of the most delicious artisanal loaves of bread you will ever taste and they feature Amelia Oil to dip it in. They have introduced Amelia Oil to many of our good customers.

Feast of Fields features numerous chefs, vintners and local producers, showcasing the best local ingredients.

Their web site says to think of it as a roaming 25 course wine pairing and tasting menu on a gorgeous farm. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the Okanagan. It was delicious!

Put this one on the to do list for next year.


Heirloom Tomatoes and Amelia Oil

Rebecca and Dana at Feast of Fields

Harvest 2009


We arrived in Amelia on November 17th after taking a train from Rome to Terni and renting a car. It was an incredibly warm and picture perfect day as we drove through the autumn coloured countryside

When we arrived at the olive mill, frantoio, we were greeted by Francesco and his parents Anna and Vincenzo. They had already pressed the olives from their own trees and were now in the middle of pressing the olives from neighbouring farmers who seemed to be arriving non-stop. I could see our visit had not come at the most convenient time for them but you wouldn’t have known from the hospitality we were shown. Aside from showing us in detail the steps of pressing the olives, we were treated to a fabulous lunch in the frantoio, which happens to boast its own private kitchen. Anna prepared us lunch that was mostly cooked in a huge open fireplace beside our table. The meal consisted of pasta, sausages, grilled meat, bruschetta, salad and pastries. This was all washed down with their own wine and limoncello. Several dishes showcased the fresh olive oil, which was drizzled freely. Yum!

I can definitely say that this year’s oil is delicious. According to Francesco it was a hot summer and the oil is of excellent quality but the production volume was far less than last year. I found it to have loads of grassy fruity flavour. This is typical of good Umbrian extra virgin olive oil.

The Suatoni family speak very little English and my Italian is even more challenged; however, they had a charming new English speaking helper, Riccardo, who was able to bridge the gap for us. In the past Rachel has been along on these trips and I could get by with her excellent Italian translations.

We took loads of pictures and Ricardo was kind enough to take us to another farm where his family were still picking olives. We had a go at it and soon realized that it is back breaking work. It made us more respectful of the amount of labour that is involved in each harvest.

We had a wonderful day in Amelia and wished we had much longer to stay and soak in the smells and ambiance of this pristine Umbrian town. Our visit renewed our sense of connection to this wonderful oil which has become the number one staple in our kitchen. We are proud to be able to share it with our customers in Canada and the United States. Stay tuned because Rachel will be expanding the American side of Amelia Oil in the new year.

– Rebecca


Back from Amelia

I am just back from Amelia and I still have the taste of olio nuovo in my mouth: green, spicy with bitter almonds and fresh cut grass. The harvest progresses and there are lots of healthy olives this year. Francesco, Anna and Vincenzo are hard at work in the frantoio in Amelia. It was great to join in the action and spend some time at my favourite place in the world–the olive mill.

More photos and videos from my trip coming soon.

A tough year


As I looked out at Francesco’s olive grove, I couldn’t believe it was November. The grass was scorched yellow and the surrounding hills were a thirsty brown. It looked more like late August. In fact, it hasn’t rained hardly at all this year in Amelia. This has had a terrible impact on nature: there are songbirds singing now that usually only come out in spring! Funghi…. don’t even say that word around these parts: mushrooms, a classic element in autumnal Umbrian cuisine, have been scarce. The Amerini are getting worried.

So, what does this mean for the olive trees and the local olive oil production? Although the oil is good quality, it means there is less. Without rain, the olives did not get very big and they are exceptionally ripe. This gives the oil a slightly different taste from last year. Some of the fresh grass taste of green frantoio olives is lost and the buttery leccino comes to the fore. As I have told our customers time and again, olive oil is an agricultural product and its taste varies from year to year depending on the weather and growing conditions. If it doesn’t, you probably aren’t eating very good oil.

Although there are few olives this year, what olives that come to the mill are putting out a high percentage of oil (since there is little water in them). This offers some good news for the people whose livelihoods depend on this crop.

As I visited people picking olives on the rolling hills around Amelia and chatted with farmers anxiously waiting in the frantoio, the economic fragility of agriculture hit home for me. It is important that we recognise the risks that olive oil producers face each year as they hope for a healthy and abundant crop of olives.

Olio Nuovo


I am just back from Amelia and it was great to participate in the olive harvest and taste the new oil. The hot weather this summer and lack of rain has been hard on the olive. This year there is not much fruit on the trees and what there is is very ripe. The good news is that what oil is being produced is quite good. There is still a grassy finish and the tingle that new oil should have. Some of last year’s fruit is lacking but this oil is still well balanced and has a nice bitter almond finish that really characterizes the Colli Amerini area. I think this comes from that touch of Moraiolo and Rajo that balances the grassieness of the Frantoio and the buttery tones of Leccino cultivars.

It was great to have a chance to spend some time with Francesco and his parents. We started to make plans for the future–next year we want to sell a rajo monocultivar. I will keep you posted on this. We also talked about organic farming and the ups and downs of dop certifications.

The frantoio was in tip-top shape with fresh olives flowing in. Francesco’s new Alfa Laval equipment is working beautifully and produces great results. This centrifuge really keeps the heat low and the oil remains really rich, in contrast to some watery burnt oil I saw and tasted at another frantoio in the area (I will not name it here).

I had a chance to pick olives with friends and visit a number of mills. I will be writing more about my visit to Amelia in the next week. This trip was hugely stimulating and reminded me of my passion for Amelia and olive oil. All I can say is that it was great to go back to the town I love.


Let’s give more value to olive oil than motor oil


I really think Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, has a point here: why are people complaining about the high price of olive oil? It should cost more than motor oil because there is a lot more work involved in producing good olive oil. People also complain about the price of motor oil but the automobile is sacred. Perhaps we should be giving the same consideration to our food instead.

In this video clip, Carlo Petrini uses olive oil as an example for thinking about food that is good, clean and fair. Essentially, we need to encourage small producers and, as consumers, we need to be concerned about food production.

Slippery Business: Olive Oil Fraud

New Yorker Image

I just read a great article in the New Yorker magazine that uncovers some of the widespread fraud in the olive oil business in Italy. It was about time people started talking about it in North America. I think it is just the tip of the iceberg but nonetheless it is a good call for consumers to be vigilant when purchasing olive oil. It really is necessary that we demand transparency and quality. It is also time to support farmers directly and make sure they are being paid fairly for their products. Cheap oil, can’t be good oil!Take a look at my olive oil buyers guide to see how you can try to protect yourself from olive oil fraud.

The Olive Gazette

I have really enjoyed getting reader comments the past few weeks. I was starting to think I was writing just for my own entertainment.

In particular, I have found Henry Mackay’s comments stimulating and well-informed. Mackay is an olive oil producer in Jaen, Spain who writes a very interesting blog called the Olive Oil Gazette. Topics on this blog range from current prices and futures of olive oil to the various awards handed out by international committees.

More thoughts on fair-trade olive oil

It is the consumer’s right to know how the product they are purchasing is produced; this goes for olive oil as well. When you buy a bottle of olive oil at the supermarket there is little indication on the bottle or the shelf of how the oil was produced or about who did all the work to turn olives into oil. Making olive oil is a year-long agricultural process that requires the attention of farmers, extra labour for harvesting and pruning as well as the people working in the mill.

Although there are few issues around fair trade in Italy it is something that needs to be considered nonetheless. Are farms getting their fair share of the profits? This is particularly important for small-scale farmers who have a hard time competing in the global market. When my mother and I started to import olive oil from Italy we wanted to make sure we were giving back to local communities and encouraging the continuation of agricultural practices and traditions.

Buying direct from the producer and selling direct to the client is one way in which we keep the cost of our oil reasonable. However, quality comes from careful labour, passion and expertise, which have their price. Generally these are not values espoused by industrial production.

As you may know, I am not a big fan of certifications and although Amelia Oil may not be certified fair trade, we are proud to be a part of sustainable, local agriculture in Italy.