When Richard's retired parents left Melbourne's eastern suburbs to manage a ramshackle olive grove at the foothills of the Grampians, he had no comprehension of what lay ahead of him. He now enjoys his life as a farmer in country Victoria and visiting Melbourne to share the fruits of his family's labour with mates.
Farmer inspired by process of paddock to plate
Richard Seymour grew up in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and when his parents purchased a property at the foothills of the Grampians, he had limited appreciation of the wonder they were producing as friends and family helped them pick their first olive crop. It is only now he can identify the true impact his parents' tree change has had on his life.
Mount Zero Olives produces and sells an award winning product range featuring eight varieties of olives, six varieties of oils and vinegars, four gourmet condiments and six pulses and grains. Mount Zero teams with local growers from the Grampians, Wimmera and one Tasmanian grower to create produce recognised for its excellence. The business also includes the Mount Zero Olive Café and produce store where locals like to meet for a gourmet treat and internet access.
Richard handles the packaging, distribution and marketing of Mount Zero Olives. Prior to working in the family business he worked with various food distributors and was inspired visiting olive groves in Spain.
'Being involved in farming and agribusiness is incredibly vital, as it connects us with the soil we are standing on and what we actually eat. This process is fundamental to life, and sharing the experience and produce with as many as others as I can, is what really drives me,' said Richard Seymour.
'Sustainability is also a big and growing angle in the industry, so we're using the same transport corridor and collaborating with other growers and suppliers to share the riches of our local region.
'I've eaten at some fantastic restaurants and the fundamentals of any great chef is that it's all about working with the very best produce that you can get. In Australia, we can add value in a global market as we are blessed with the best produce available.
'There is a lot to be positive about in regard to the future of agriculture. Australians are showing a greater appreciation of food these days and that has changed a lot. People are asking more questions about where their produce is from and about the varieties available. They are connecting more with what they are eating which is important on many levels.'
There is a growing brand loyalty to the Mount Zero Olives business as customers share recipes featuring Mount Zero product on the company website. In addition, each May and June a small international community of pickers is also drawn to Mt Zero's enduring commitment to organic and sustainable farming, and to the stunning landscape of the farm itself.
About Mount Zero Olives
Mount Zero Olives is a family business located on 80 hectares in Laharam adjacent to the Grampians National Park, in Western Victoria. The Seymour family who took over the property in 1994, without any prior experience growing olives.
Mount Zero Olives product range includes:
- Olives: Australian wild, kalamata, blonde kalamata, manzanilla, mixed, ligurian, green manzanilla and arbequina;
- Oils and vinegars: extra virgin, basil infused extra virgin, red wine vinegar, Demeter biodynamic extra virgin oil, lemon pressed extra virgin olive oil and verjus;
- Condiments: black olive tapenade, green olive paste, Egyptian dukkah, and Pine Lake salt;
- Pulses and grains – French style fine green lentils, Persian red lentils, faro, Demeter Bio-dynamic Falafel Mix, Demeter Bio-dynamic Falafel Mix, organic chickpeas and Organic Australian Quinoa.
The olive grove was planted in the 1950s by an Israeli migrant who chose manzanilla trees to suit the climate and soil. Many of the 6000 trees are now more than 60 years old and are harvested manually each May to June. In 2011, Mount Zero Olives produced 16,000 litres of olive oil, compared to the 2,000 litres produced when the family purchased the property. After a fire in 1998, the Seymour family were amazed when their olive trees cam back better than ever.
The olive grove is a Demeter certified, biodynamic farm. The grove is self-sustaining in its farming practices, feeding the trees directly form the soil humus rather than chemical inputs and the energy supply is sourced from off-grid wind and solar generators.
Mount Zero Olives has diversified its products over the years with a focus on collaboration and sustainability. For example, the Seymour family has joined forces with the traditional custodians of Victoria's Pink Lake – the local Indigenous Barenji Gadjin Land Council. Together they harvest 20 tonnes of salt crystals from the seasonal salt lake west of Dimboola, which is around 50 kilometres from the Seymour's grove. The lake turns pink when flooded as a result of beta-carotene produced by salt loving bacteria.
For further information, visit:
- Silver Award: Australian Olive Association 2008 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Show
Judges Comment: Fresh tomato, herbaceous aromas and flavours; medium bitterness and pungency that lingered
- Australia's Number One Extra Virgin Olive Oil, The Age Epicure 2007
- Best Olive Oil Buys Round the World 2004, written by British writer and olive oil expert, Judy Ridgway on the best extra virgin olive oils produced in ten different countries. Mount Zero Olives biodynamic olive oil receives five stars out of five in this book, stating that "the depth of taste and flavour is amazing".
- Champion, Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2002 Regional Agricultural Society of NSW, Spring Fine Food Awards
- Silver Award, Commercial (Large Volume) Bottled Oil, 2002 Australian Olive Association Ltd
- Gold Medal, Biodynamic Olive Oil, 2001 Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania, Wrest Point National Fine Food Awards