TALKING OLIVE OIL AND HUGGING TREES

WHY OPRAH WINFREY GETS MY VOTE
FINDING PEACE AND PURPOSE DURING ADVERSITY

TALKING OLIVE OIL AND HUGGING TREES

On her brief visit to Singapore, I spoke with Gemmologist Rita Guastella (a diamond and emerald expert!) about her Adopt an Olive Tree project, where you can adopt a tree, preserve the land, and receive your very own home-grown organic Tuscan olive oil.

Born in India, educated in America, Rita lived and worked in Singapore until marrying an Italian and deciding to move to Italy after falling in love with the land, natural living and a dilapidated farm which they decided to rekindle (check out her full story). It’s been a decade since – and while Olive trees have sprouted and flourished, they have been struggling to maintain the grove as organic.

“We wanted land, to own a house, and if anything happens, to have something our kids can live off. We work hard to keep it organic and are against pesticides of all kind. It’s expensive. It needs the farmers who are experienced with organic farming, even down to the pruning technique. That’s why we came up with ‘adopt an olive tree’–so people can get involved in preserving and cultivating organic land.”

The olive grove and its oil is named Nicalu, after Rita’s three young sons who one day will take over responsibility for nurturing the trees for their own next generation.

Adopting a tree at Nicalùgoes directly to protecting and restoring the olive trees in the grove and to raise funds for charity (three causes in Singapore), while sending you certified organic Tuscan Olive Oil from your adopted olive tree.

How is the Olive oil made? They pick the olives themselves –Rita, her husband, her children and the farmers who take care of the land. They pick early, while the olives are still green and fresh and send directly to a mill. Not a stone press, she reassures as if anyone would know the difference. “Stone presses are not hygienic, cigarettes are flying, there’s dirty feet all around. We made sure our mill is the best kind.”

Apparently even when you send the olives to the mill matters. Waiting till evening risks the olives getting mouldy, so Rita makes sure they’re sent as soon as they’re picked.

“The oil is produced on first press, that’s why it’s extra virgin. Most supermarket olive oil are second or third press.”From picking to extracting the oil is only a week, guaranteeing the oil is as fresh as can be.

Nicalu ship three times a year from Italy by air, thermal packed and adopting for six months gets you two litres of olive oil.

Want to adopt a tree for a lifetime as a family heirloom (that was my idea!) you can do that too! Just renew your adoption. Often trees are adopted as personalised gifts, as you even get to name your tree (in which the plaque is gets hung on the tree for the duration of your adoption and a photo is sent to you along with an adoption certificate). The “foster parents”, as she calls them, can visit (and hug! She says with a genuine smile) their tree, picnicking under the Mediterranean moonlight in the very olive grove they helped sustained. Want to visit? Just give her some noticed and you can be dining in the Tuscan sun in no time. How romantic!

But why olive oil? It could be any crop from the Mediterranean, right?

“Because it’s olive oil!” She exclaims. “Oh my god”she says with unadulterated passion “it’s olive oil, liquid gold! “It’s amazing, it’s used for everything, from babies and food, there’s a lot of health benefits.”

The house on the farm is used for charities and homestays. Occasionally Rita gives up the house for charity bids, recently raising over $10,000 for charity.

Rita’s dream is that more people will adopt so more land surrounding the farm can be converted to organic.

“They are sprayed so much, you have no idea. People in the area still live off the land though, picking tomatoes and eating them straight off the vine without needing to wash it. We hope to protect it for future generations, not just our sons, but their children, and their children’s children.”

Rita is building a community of people, companies and CSRs, who care about the land, want to preserve and connect with it and even receive one of nature’s bountiful gift, liquid gold, olive oil!

To adopt a tree and receive your personalised olive oil, visit http://www.nicalu.com/

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