Manna Hill Estate is a small family run organic olive grove at Mt Egerton (near Ballarat) in the beautiful countryside of the Central Highlands in Victoria, Australia. Owned by Campbell and Julie, the grove is at an altitude of 520 metres above sea level so it has lower temperatures than elsewhere in Victoria with cool, wet winters and warm dry summers. This results in slower maturation of the fruit that intensifies the flavour and suits the Tuscan varieties (Frantoio & Corregiola) of olives that are grown.
We both grew up in rural communities, moved to the city and subsequently became concerned about where their food came from and what was being added to it. This led us to make a commitment to eating organic, sustainable, unprocessed where possible, locally produced food. When children arrived, we wanted a rural lifestyle where the whole family could be more connected to the production of the food we ate and the experience of living in, caring for, and farming the natural environment.
We were also concerned with the corporatization of agriculture and the loss of the small family-run mixed farm. Campbell grew up on a small mixed farm which at various times (and often together) ran sheep, beef cattle, a dairy, pigs, and ancillary livestock including chooks and ducks along with the home vegetable patch and orchard. Such farms have largely disappeared from the Australian landscape with the result being a loss of genetic diversity among livestock, lack of understanding by consumers of the link between the food they eat, the seasons and the farms that produce it, and the rise of corporate agriculture more interested in short term share market returns than long term environmental and agricultural sustainability. Increased use of inputs (synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides) and use of genetically modified organisms has followed this trend. We decided that there had to be a better, more sustainable, community focused and enlightened approach to putting healthy, life affirming, food on people’s plates.
The Manna Hill Story
We began our journey in 2001 by turning a run-down sheep farm with little infrastructure and more than its fair share of weeds into a thriving olive grove using organic principles during a period that was further challenged by 10 years of drought. Over the ensuing time we have established a small mixed farm where we grow olives and timber, have our own vegetable garden and an orchard with many different fruit trees that provide a lovely scratching ground for our chooks who in turn fertilise the soil. Our children, the future of this planet, have grown up participating in the production of the food they eat and understanding what healthy food is and how to care for the environment in which they live to ensure that we, as a population, can grow food indefinitely.
We are passionate about what we do in order to produce the best possible olive oil resulting in a premium extra virgin organic olive oil. For us, the development of the Manna Hill Estate olive grove has been a significant journey of seeking to connect end consumers with their food and demonstrate that food is not merely a commodity but a life enhancing, enjoyable experience that can support sustainable agriculture, significant environmental benefits, and interlinked communities.