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Swellboy on… being an olive farmer

An urban olive grove is put in the shade by its Spanish counterpart

Swellboy on… being an olive farmer

Image: Brijesh Patel

March 24 2011
Nick Foulkes

I am no agriculturalist, but occasionally there is a plant that manages to survive at the bottom of the lightwell in front of my basement, or in the little mock York stone-paved yard at the back of the house.

A few years ago I was given an olive tree and to my surprise and delight it has so far refused to die. Indeed last year I think I even saw some green pellets on the branches, which, at a distance at least, could easily be mistaken for olives. All in all I was feeling more than a little green-fingered and pleased with myself until I got a call from a friend in Spain, Juan Carlos Escribano.

Juan Carlos is a charming man, a Spanish hidalgo of the old school who is never less than perfectly turned out. A man of eminent good sense, when visiting London he takes the eminently sensible precaution of eating most of his meals at Mark’s Club. He very sweetly informed me that his latest crop of olives had been harvested on his finca and that he would like to send me a barrel of olive oil. The oil has duly arrived and will furnish me with salad dressing for a generation; by contrast my crop might be just enough to dress a quarter of a tomato – well, perhaps a quarter of a cherry tomato.

Juan Carlos has also mentioned that he has an interest in another farm which breeds fighting bulls and suggested that when I am next in Spain we should pay a visit to this other estancia of his. I somehow did not feel it appropriate to mention that as well as being an olive farmer in my small way, I too know a little about rearing livestock, given that currently my livestock amounts to a single hamster… and even she has managed to escape from her cage on at least one occasion.

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