When I arrived for the interview for this story, my first sight was of Danielle Gordon shovelling dirt, while partner Tony Lambdon was ankle deep in mud.
Not just kids playing in a muddy dam, but one of the ways this enterprising couple have taught themselves new skills (in this case making a cob wall for their new pressing shed). Their hands-on approach has enabled them to turn an overgrown olive grove into a thriving new farm business in just on two years.
Tony Lambdon and Danielle Gordon took over the Forest Estate Olive Grove, about 30 kilometres from Millmerran in March 2013. They immediately had to start picking their first olive crop, calling on family and friends for help. “Having spent several years involved in development work both nationally and internationally, we decided it was time to step out and develop a place where we could create a self-sustainable lifestyle,” Danielle says.
The inaugural ‘Olive Festival’ in March 2015 will celebrate their anniversary, starting with a Long Lunch prior to inviting guests to help with the first pick. The pair are also learning fast how to run a successful small mixed farm on just 20 acres of sandy loam, including raising chickens, Dorper sheep and pigs, relying only on rain and occasionally using bore water. Tony says, “With our own press, we can add value to our harvest in house, maintaining quality through the pressing, infusing, bottling and labelling processes.”
Olives have been grown commercially in Queensland for more than 130 years and an article from 1883 says, “The olive has fruited well … and gives good promise on the Darling Downs.” Grown then for its medicinal properties, today Tony and Danielle promote their olive oils as part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Doing a lot of the work themselves, they have also had the help of a series of cheerful Wwoofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), providing young travellers from all over the world with food, accommodation and a great experience, in return for their labour.
Danielle and Tony also realised they could not just sit and wait for customers to discover them. With a flair for marketing, Danielle has used her networking skills and social media to promote their range of products and explains: “We sell from the tasting room, and customers can also buy online through our website at forestestateolivegrove.com.”
Millmerran residents soon found that the Olive Grove is a great place to wind down after a busy week. From 4pm every second Friday of the month, Tony lights up the wood-fired pizza oven and Danielle looks after diners in the restaurant and tasting room, or outside in the alfresco eating area. Patrons can enjoy pizza and dessert for as little as $20, with a choice of local wines and ciders available and entertainment from local musicians. The mobile wood-fired pizza is also available to cater for private functions, and has become a feature of markets and festivals all over the Downs.
Words by Wendy Moline | Images Supplied by Forest Estate Olive Grove