About Sommariva Olives
When Bill and Karen McLennan purchased Sommariva Station in 1993, a 25,000 acre property 38km East of Charleville, they never envisaged establishing an olive grove. Instead, Sommariva was intended to just be the family home, a base from which to indulge in their love of endurance horse riding and a place to run a few cattle.
However, the opportunity to diversify and create a sustainable farming enterprise arose when a family friend returned from a holiday in Italy and suggested they try olives due to similarities in climate.
In 1996 despite already operating a panel beating shop, the cattle station and raising two young children, Bill and Karen managed to plant a trial grove of 1,200 olive trees composed of seven different varieties selected carefully for their reputation and hardiness. These include Jumbo Kalamata (table olive), Kalamata (table olive), UC13A6 or Calaforina Queen (green table olive), Paragon (oil), Hardy’s Mammonth (oil), Nevadillo Blanco (oil), Manzanillo (dual purpose).
Sommariva's landscape is red loamy soil with areas of rocky ridges, it has abundant growth of Mulga trees, with Box flat strips. The region is well known for its hot dry summers with temperatures often exceeding 43 degrees celsius and cold winter mornings which can plummet below -3 degrees delivering icey frosts. The climate also varies dramatically between extreme drought and raging floods. It is little wonder that this area of Queensland was referred to as "heart break corner" by the great Arthur Earl, a well known Queensland property developer.
In the harsh semi-arid climate of South-west Queensland, Bill and Karen learned that the most critical factors in maintaining olive production is to ensure that the trees are well watered, fertilised and pruned. While this sounds simple, it is these simple steps that have seen Sommariva's Olives flourish, while other Grove's have failed.
Today, the boutique plantation produces approximately 27 tonnes of fruit each year. Harvesting is done by hand, using rakes and catching nets, beginning in early March and continues to the start of winter whilst the olives ripen from green into black. Once harvested, the olives are brought back to the sorting shed where 80pc of the fruit is crushed for oil. The table olives are sorted and graded for quality and only the best fruit is stored in barrels of salt brine to begin the de-bittering process. After crushing the oil is stored in stainless steel barrels in a temperature controlled environment.
The McLennan’s have recently planted their No. 2 Olive Grove, which should see production increase in coming years.Currently Sommariva Olive products are sold online and through the Sommariva Olive stores located in Charleville. Sommariva Olive tours are conducted upon request.
There is nothing the Mclennan family love more after a hard day's work then to relax around a camp fire. Cooking a camp oven dinner, toasting marshmellows and looking up at the beautiful night sky, stars so bright they look like city lights.
Owners of Sommariva, Bill & Karen McLennan enjoying a stroll in the olive grove
Another day on the farm - Bill mustering his cattle
A Mulga Python - one of the many speices of snakes that are found in Western Queensland.
A man of many talents - cooking pizza's for a bus tour