Couple blessed with success
Barry and Verity Baines live the good life.
The former Auckland couple bought an eight hectare property on the banks of the Kaipara Harbour between Matakohe and Paparoa in 2001, moved an old chapel on site and then sat back and decided what they wanted to do with it all.
They knew they didn't want to run stock and eventually decided on olives, planting 1153 trees a year later.
After three years, the trees were producing 130 kilos of the mediterranean fruit and this year a massive nine tonnes of olives was picked, pressing into 1370 litres of quality oil. And to top off a good season, their oils have been winning awards, their Frantoio Italian oil picking up the champion award at Auckland's Easter Show last month and a gold medal in the Olivetti Olive Oil Competition, while their Greek Koroneiki oil took out silvers in the Olivetti and Easter shows and their Leccino a silver at the Olivetti champs.
"Overall the judges were very impressed with our oils," Mrs Baines says.
The Olivetti competition is open to growers from Pukekohe north and is a a great platform to judge how good their oils are, she says.
"It gives a very good indication that oils produced in the north are of a very high standard."
Mr Baines says the Easter show had entrants from further afield, including Hawke's Bay.
The couple moved permanently on to their land and into their chapel five years ago. They found the former Chapel of the Good Shepherd on the internet, and once it found its new home, the Chapel Olive Oil brand was born. Built in the 60s, it seems right at home among the trees, some of which are only six metres above high tide "right on the water".
The couple says it is this and the mighty Kaipara wind that gives the oil its unique flavour.
"It must be the salt in the air," Verity says.
Their olives are pressed in Wellsford and it is imperative they get to the press as soon as possible after they are picked.
Once pressed the oil goes into 200 litre foil bags, which, when settled, is decanted into stainless steel drums.
Chapel Olive Oil is a regular feature at the Waipu, Paparoa and Riverside Produce markets and is also popular throughout Kaipara and Auckland restaurants, including Jo's Home Cookery in Dargaville.
The olives require constant attention and picking and pressing time can be stressful, but they wouldn't trade their lifestyle for the world.
"It's a nice way to retire," Barry says.