It’s olive picking time in Greece this month. Find out how to join in.
Have you ever wondered how those hard little green things become tasty succulent morsels? Or how they get enough of them off the trees to actually produce bottles of olive oil? Join the olive harvest at Eumelia in the southeastern Peloponnese this month and you can find out.
November is olive picking season in the Peleponnese – that open-palm-shaped peninsula of southern Greece west of Attika that is ribbed with dramatic, fortress-studded mountains and strewn with ancient olive groves. Until the relatively recent advent of motorways across and through its harsh landscape, the Peleponnese was difficult to visit. So, unlike the popular French grape harvest, the vendange, late autumn olive picking and oil pressing in the Peloponnese is less well known.
That is changing. Eumelia Farm, among the leaders in agrotourism in the region, hosts three, 5-day olive oil immersion experiences this month. No, despite the name, you won’t be diving into a bath of the stuff. But you’ll be tasting, sniffing, cooking, soap making and harvesting; learning and doing pretty much everything else you can do with this region’s liquid gold. We visited the Farm in September to find out more.
Beautiful place with a serious objective
The official name, Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm and Guesthouse, is a serious name for a place with an earnest purpose. Founder, Greek-born and Westchester-raised, Frangiskos Karelas pursued a variety of socially conscious careers, working with the UN and the European Parliament in the human rights and environmental area.
“But, an internal voice kept urging me to look for a more sustainable and meaningful way of life for myself, my wife and my son,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eumelia, 50 acres of family-owned olive trees and herb fields once farmed by his great grandfather and now abandoned, was going to ruin. Yet, with some of its olive trees – including the double tree pictured above – still producing fruit after more than 2,000 years, the farm was ripe for revival. Returning to his ancestral land was a natural next step.
Since 2003, Karelas has been putting his ideas – to encourage small scale, local community-focused farming and circular economics (keeping profits within the local area) – into practice. Eumelia began welcoming guests in 2009. Today the farm, named by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the 50 best places to visit in 2018, produces olives and olive-based products, grapes, almonds, herbs and vegetables. The farm welcomes guests to several self-catering cottages that grow right out of the rich, red ochre-coloured soil as well as in guest rooms in the main house. The eco-friendly accommodations, pictured below, are deceptively rustic. In fact, the cleverly designed interiors are simple, well-equipped, modern and stylish.
Simple but stylish, ecofriendly cottages at Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm.
Things to do at Eumelia Farm
Take part in family retreats, yoga retreats, cookery classes, culinary tours and farm-to-table meals. Visitors, who stay a minimum of two nights, can participate as volunteers in farm activities. Or not. Eumelia can also organize mountain biking and hiking expeditions, wine tastings, Jeep and kayak tours, riding and photography workshops.
Join one and go olive picking, make olive oil, cook with local ingredients and learn to make olive oil soap. All that, plus the chance to learn about the qualities and history of this ancient product. The price (from £804 in 2018) covers four nights accommodation and daily organic breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A cookery session at Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm.
When: The olive harvest takes place in November but the farm and hotel are open for retreats and activities year round.
Getting there: The farm is near the village of Gouves, about an hour southeast of Sparta in the Peloponnese. If you are driving from Athens, plan on about six hours and arrive in daylight because the road to the farmhouse itself is largely unpaved and meanders through olive groves. A better option is to fly to Kalamata, which has an international airport, and make transfer arrangements with Eumelia.