Autumn’s a Magical Time in the Grove!
Located in the Rural City of Wangaratta, clinging to the granite soil that dusts the undulating foothills of the Warby Ovens National Park in North East of Victoria, with sweeping views across the Australian Alps, Bill Baxter and Jill Campbell’s property Wangandary Olives enjoys the classical Mediterranean climate mix of long hot summers and cold winters.
How we got here
Bill Baxter grew up on a sheep and wheat property, with his parents, near Nagambie. They left the farm in the mid-60s and relocated to Melbourne where he matriculated and started studying law. After a year, however, he changed direction and studied hospitality at William Angliss and Victoria University. With a Diploma in Catering and Hotel Management, he worked in catering management roles across Australia for the next twenty or so years. Deeply committed to providing passionate service, his career then took him to hospital catering management in Benalla.
Fourteen years ago when the olive industry was about to embark on its third renaissance, Bill realised that he wanted to return to his farming roots, and started building Wangandary Olives from the ground up with his wife Jill. They planted 2000 olive trees, over a two-year period, before they even got around to building their home. Their breathtaking property is located in true Kelly country, on the edge of the Warby Ovens National Park near Glenrowan, in the Rural City of Wangaratta North East Victoria. They both believe passionately in the region as a naturally sustainable and organic food bowl.
Bill’s desire for the sustainable organic production of olives started with a comprehensive research of the property’s soil types and topography. As a result, he chose dense planting of four complimentary olive trees on a 40-acre section of the property adjacent to a large dam. He decided on 750 Frantoio trees, recognised for their very high oil yields, 250 Nevardillo Blanco, 500 Hardy’s Mammoth, and 500 Manzanillo trees.
With the help of his trusty old red Ferguson Tractor Bill initially slashed and plowed the planting area to promote and assist long-term deep rooting of the trees. Once planted and watered in, every tree was mulched with the equivalent of a Saturday’s Melbourne Age newspaper around it. The area was then further hand layered with 26 round bales of straw from a nearby Thoona property. Thanks to very careful annual shaping and pruning of each tree, all 2000 trees came through 10 years of drought without loss.
As early as the fourth year when they tested the first pressing, the family team realised that they had something very special on their hands. Chemical-free organic extra virgin olive oil requires mandatory processing within 24 hours from picking. Bill’s organic processor is only 20 minutes drive away from the grove.
What’s happening now
We are so happy to have won bronze, silver, or gold medals in the Australian Golden Olive Awards 2016, the Australian Food Awards, and the Sydney Food Awards since 2016 continuing to expand our market and product range over the years.
Who is making it happen
Bill – Passionate about customer service, food, clean green produce, regional development in terms of enabling young people to stay here, and making beautiful food together.
Jill – A lifetime of leadership and management in the health and lifestyle sector – the quiet achiever inspiring the team and an expert in financial management.
Andrew – Passionate about the environment and what is good for our earth. Uncompromising about how our land should be worked. Totally committed to the production of organic products. Excited about this business.
James – Passionate about how the enterprise will be facilitated through the development and maintenance of all production equipment. Amazing attention to detail and interest in design, fabrication and construction maintenance and in all things mechanical.
Tara – Like Andrew Tara is very excited about the project. With her Masters in Hydrology and currently project manager for Melbourne Water, Tara is committed to the project’s regional water sustainability and management.
Annie – Like all other team members is excited about the project. Annie is passionate about facilitating the business marketing and communication activities and sharing the knowledge of this beautiful product throughout the foodie world across North East Victoria and beyond.