Oil Mill Masters: devotion to olive juice

In order to obtain a high quality extra virgin olive oil, the coordinated participation of a large number of professionals is essential. Giving the best of each one at each stage is the only way to achieve excellence. From the farmer who cares for and pampers his olive trees to the person in charge of the industrial plant where the olive juice is packaged so that it reaches homes, there are several key phases in this process. Among them is the figure of the oil mill master, who is primarily responsible for optimally extracting the olive juice, transferring the quality of a healthy fruit to its juice, to the extra virgin olive oil.

With this space we want to pay tribute to this key figure in the associated oil mills and continue learning about olive culture and the secrets behind a high quality extra virgin olive oil.

 

Carlos Javier Ruíz 

Mill master at the associated cooperative Virgen de La Oliva in Mollina (Malaga)

Since 1989 he started working in the helper mill, but by chance in life he soon had to take over the reins of this oil mill.

Although he highly values ​​all that he could learn from previous teachers, his passion for this work made him interested in other ways of doing things. “In these 32 years, continuing training has been key throughout this period, visiting other oil mills, taking courses, reading studies, attending technical conferences … in this work I find you never stop learning”.

He also highlights the great importance of his knowledge of mechanics, that has allowed him to solve problems that at that time did not have a right answer from the industry.

Looking to the future, he regrets the loss of human resources both in the olive grove and in the oil mill, seeing as difficult an adequate generational change at this time. However, he hopes that the future is better for the field, necessarily having to go through its complete professionalization.

In his long career, he has seen a great evolution throughout these years, such as the shortening of the campaigns. “In the nineties he used to end in late March or early April, however, now they end in mid-February at the latest.”

The recent integration to the cooperative project of Oleoestepa has been a plus of demand. For this reason, the details have to be taken care of even more, reducing the milling hours, maintaining a maximum cleanliness of the facilities, carrying out a cold extraction and of course, counting on the collaboration of the associated farmer in the care of the olive grove and an adequate collection. of healthy olives at the right time.

Looking back, he remembers the great cultural change in the way of determining the quality of oils both in the mill and by the consumer. Before, ignorance made the consumer value “esparto mat oil” more than the current extra virgin oils. “Fortunately, the consumer is more informed, which means a greater appreciation of higher quality oils.”

 

Manuel Borrego

Mill master at the associated cooperative San Jose de Lora de Estepa (Seville)

Manuel Borrego is immersed in his seventh campaign as Oil Mill Master at Olivarera de San José de Lora de Estepa (Seville). But he has been linked to this cooperative for many more years, learning from the hand of his master Francisco Espinosa.

In the middle of the harvest campaign, he summarizes his work highlighting the selection and organization of the fruits to be milled. Once the delivery has been made by the farmer-member, his work consists of supervising the loading and unloading and the coordination between the mill’s human team.

The former mill master insisted on the importance of knowing the oil and recognizing the quality of the olive juice. For this reason, he has combined his work with that of taster, forming part of the Oleoestepa tasting panel. Having the ability to recognize the exceptional quality of an extra virgin olive oil is fundamental to not make mistakes in his work.

He was fortunate to experience a radical change in the production process. With the arrival of new technologies, he remembers gladly how difficult it was to learn to get used to the new machinery, and how they have continued to evolve and advance.

In his opinion, to obtain a good extra virgin olive oil it is essential to have a good selection of the product and a quick milling, before the first six or eight hours, so that the olives do not have time to spoil. Time is gold, and in this case, liquid.

 

Ricardo García

Mill master at the associated cooperative Sor Ángela de Cruz in Estepa (Seville)

He is in his fifth campaign as head of the team in charge of extracting the olive juice.

He studied Agricultural Engineering at the University of Seville and specialized in Agroindustrial Plant Design. He joined this associated cooperative in 2008 as a technical advisor to the associated farmers for the implementation of a set of environmentally sustainable agronomic techniques, certified by Integrated Production.

He took advantage of his permanent and close contact with the former master, especially during the olive harvesting and oil production campaign, to train himself in the skills and tasks of the oil master of the mill, taking over from 2017.

He summarizes his daily task in planning and directing the production process. That is, organizing from the reception of the olives to the classification of the oils in the cellar.

He considers that the incorporation of technology in the production process is very important, but the key to achieving high quality extra virgin olive oils is found in the fruit, the olive, “if the fruit is extraordinary in the mill we take care of not spoiling that quality”.

In his daily work he has verified that there are areas that give singular oils, “the majority of olive groves in the region give a good extra virgin olive oil but not all of them are singular”, putting the focus on the dry land areas and with a deficit irrigation.

In the industrial component of his activity he affirms that all the improvements of facilities are welcome since once incorporated, it is very difficult to spoil the quality of a fruit in the extraction of its juice. Here he insists again that “technology, automation and self-digitization are fundamental”.

From his apprenticeship with the previous master he wants to highlight his insistence on having the ability to make decisions before the olive enters the mill. “From the beginning I have poured my work into sorting olives and not oils. Batches of very good olives give very good oils. Again, technology is our ally, thanks to it the farmers communicate before they arrive from which plot they are going to take the olives, which allows us to make an optimal planning of the reception of the olives.”

 

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