Nature and Science Converge for a Sustainable Future and Meet in the Olive
The future of olive oil lies in its past in the ancient texts where it is written that early harvest olive oil from green olives is medicinal. But the future is rising out of the present and our agricultural methods have everything to do with olive oil of that health promoting quality becoming widely recognised and taking its place as an herbal medicine. And, we discovered that the olive may just be the metaphor for a greater message for the health and well-being of the planet.
An interesting thing happens when you follow your passion. You meet other people following their passion and before you know it, you are standing in the midst of a tribe holding a collective vision of something beyond imagining; something much bigger than the sum of its individual parts. At this conference the common vision was the Earth, its bounty in healing foods, its intelligence in biodiversity and our responsibility to respect and care for it as if our lives depend on it. Oh right… they do.
We discovered or rediscovered during this conference that the future of olive oil and, indeed, the future of our food supply lies in the past. Whether it is the ancient wisdom of the use of foods for health or the wisdom of the earth holding the secret of renewed life in a seed dormant for centuries and reawakened by nurturance, or in the wisdom of nature we unlock when we pay attention to what draws out its best.
The thread that bound us in this conference was Nature: enhancing nature’s potential in high phenolic olive oil, sharing the wonders of natural foods for our health, regenerating what has been lost in nature by regeneration of natural systems, reinvigorating nature’s bounty by sustainable ecological practices, respecting natural biodiversity and finally reversing the degradation of our lands by becoming stewards of the Earth. All of this was recorded and distributed by environmentally conscious media Eco NETV illustrating that every aspect of a gathering such as this has its place in the integrity of the whole.
However the overreaching theme was community. The big picture is always in the small things. Taking care. Coming together to share our stories, our challenges and our successes. We learn from one another and we support one another.
It was a great privilege to have HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan as our guest speaker this year. Last year the princess was kind enough to give a video presentation awarding first prize in the Aristoleo Awards to Atsas Organic Farm for their accomplishment in a record breaking high phenolic olive oil. The connection was permaculture. Regenerative agricultural methods are central to the development and ongoing cultural influence of the Royal Botanic Garden in Jordan and it is these same permaculture methods that produced olive oil with the highest ever recorded level of phenolic content, record breaking two years running.
Visionary for a Green Cyprus — Atsas Owner, George David Sees the Future in Agro-Ecology
Atsas Organic Farm owner George David shared his vision for restoring the biodiversity of Cyprus. Taking in the potential of the island’s biodiversity and assessing its challenges with limited rainfall, he suggests that starting now and working conversationally will safeguard the island’s future. George David is someone who walks his talk, taking the first step of this vision and bringing it to fruition at Atsas Organic Farm implementing agro-ecological methods. Drawing the best olive oil in the world from a land, which had 1 cm of topsoil and 13 months without rain its first year is proof that sustainable practices not only work to restore the land, but result in superior nutritional quality of produce. The farm has brought together science and tradition and experience has illustrated that nature binds resiliency with versatility resulting in superior produce. Now, in its fourth year the farm is a model for the unfolding of his mission to restore Cyprus to its latent biodiversity and make it a green, organic oasis.
Mr. David shares the words of environmental activist and writer, Wendell Berry:
Good farmers who take seriously their duties as stewards of creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society. But they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.
Mr. David foretells that with government support and new sustainable agricultural methods, production of nutritionally superior organic produce, be it olives, carob, pomegranate or other indigenous crops can raise the profile of farming to a profession that is respected, gratifying as well as lucrative, thus changing the evolution in agriculture of the country one agro-ecological farm at a time.
Princess with a Cause — The Royal Botanic Garden, Jordan
HRH Princess Basma bint Ali speaks with a nobility of purpose rather than privilege when she shares her commitment to the Royal Botanic Garden, which she founded in Jordan in 2005. The RBG is a living lesson in restoring the biodiversity of a land endangered by creeping desertification from degenerative agrarian and husbanding practices in a country with limited resources stressed by a growing indigenous and refugee population.
Nature needs time to restore her equilibrium and man needs patience to allow that to happen. One of Princess Basma’s challenges was to get the ranchers to respect the new perimeter fences until the land was restored to the point of controlled grazing. Cooperation rose out of active listening to these marginalized local inhabitants, which were at once the beneficiaries of the land as well as its cause of its degradation. It also takes time to build trust and that is what Princess Basma achieved with five families who became ambassadors to share the benefits of adhering to restorative methods.
Within the boundaries of the RBG are several bio geographical habitats, each of which has been designated and studied for its unique species of plant, bird and animal, soil condition and exposure to the elements. No new plantings have been initiated until all that nature holds in its buried seed bank is allowed to flourish. With the view to create vibrant interactive agro-tourism experience and a replicable model, the princess has set out an elegant array of gardens each with its own entry point to the miraculous interconnectedness of nature and our place within it.
There is the Garden of Knowledge where children can experience the land, play in the soil and plant a seed to see it grow. These are the future custodians of our globe. The Medicinal Garden where the olive trees grow has a museum sharing traditional wisdom of the many indigenous medicinal plants and their uses. As these plants were discovered the elders were sought out to document their knowledge of the healing properties. The Islamic Garden includes four traditional concepts; Persian, Mogul, Andalusian and Ottoman. The Agricultural Garden follows the history of agriculture from ancient times to GMO and the impact on the earth. And my favourite, the Universe Garden which is designed around the configuration of the planets and based on The Golden Ratio which illustrates the miracles within nature and our interconnectedness to all things.
HRH shares the necessity of measuring success by using science to gather data and the necessity of making that scientific proof understandable and compelling for the stakeholders. Ultimately, we are all stakeholders in a world where biodiversity and sustainable practices restore the earth’s bounty for a future where plant conservation is no longer a necessity, where food is abundant and nourishing and there is plenty for all.
RBG is a model that Princess Basma hopes to inspire other countries to adopt. Royal Botanical Gardens is a living lab and a prototype inspiring and teaching hundreds every year. https://permaculturenews.org/venue/pri-jordan/
Professor with a Purpose — The Past, Present and Future of High Phenolic Olive Oil
Dr. Prokopios Magiatis shares that, despite controversy over olive oil as food or medicine, there has been significant progress of this healthful new category of high phenolic olive oil since the EU Food Safety Health Claim Regulation 432–2012. Indeed is was the clear reference in ancient texts citing certain qualities of olive oil (early harvest from green olives) as a drug that first spurred the husband and wife research team of Magiatis and Melliou to develop the means to measure individual phenolic compounds using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and which phenols were most common in this early harvest olive oil.
Dr. Magiatis dives into the growing body of research into high phenolic olive oil, in particular those rich with oleocanthal and its beneficial effect on illnesses caused by chronic inflammation. These illness include, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular, hypertension, arthritis, diabetes and many cancers. He posits that in a short time, research will irrefutably prove olive oils of this calibre to be herbal medicine because olive oil is in fact the juice of the olive fruit. While the bulk of the research is into oleocanthal, Dr. Magiatis says the investigation into the efficacy of the many other beneficial phenols, including oleacein, has only just begun.
While governments like Canada and the United States treat the health claim on olive oil only in terms of a monounsaturated fat, Dr. Magiatis shows that it is public opinion that is driving the demand for olive oil as a food supplement. In just a few years, dozens of olive oil products have come to market in capsule, pill and liquid form. As research gains momentum into human trials and consumer awareness grows so will the demand for brands to include in the daily diet as a means to reduce the risk of developing illness.
Dr. Magiatis went on to tell of the EU funded ARISTOIL Interreg MED programme of which both Magiatis’ research team at the University of Athens and Aristoleo Ltd. are key partners is studying the harvest times and production methods to ensure the optimum levels of phenolic compounds in olive oils. Variety plays a role, but so do many other factors. The object of the ARISTOIL study is to test 3000 olive oils in five countries and share best practices in order to promote the commercial value of this unique olive oil. One of the programme deliverables is the World Olive Center for Health established in 2017 that gathers and disseminates information for the benefit of the many producers embracing this new category and for the education of the public.
Professor with a Passion — The Health Benefits of High Phenolic Table Olives
Dr. Eleni Melliou has studied olives with her husband and research partner Prokopios Magiatis for fifteen years. From varieties, de-bittering methods and research criteria to measure phenolic compounds, she shared that, like olive oil, not all olives are the same and curing methods impact the beneficial qualities of the olive as well.
Kalamata style olives were used for a small-scale human trial to see the effect of 5 olives per day or the equivalent of 25 mg of hydroxyl tyrosol on twenty healthy human volunteers. There was a baseline blood test taken and then the volunteers consumed olives for 30 days after which a second blood sample was taken. There followed a 30-day washout period of no olive consumption followed by the final blood analysis which showed a positive effect on lipidemic profile with the conclusion that probably the phenolic compounds found in high phenolic table olives can contribute to the reduction of cardiovascular disease.
A second more comprehensive study with 100 volunteers who were already suffering from high cholesterol levels has been started. The study of the effect of consuming high phenolic olives daily is ongoing and so far there has been optimism as a general reduction in cholesterol levels among the volunteers has been measured. The olives used in these two studies were tested to be exceptionally high in phenolic compounds. Sakellaropoulos Organic Olives won Top Gold in the Aristoleo Awards.
One of the asides of the research in de-bittering processes was Dr. Melliou’s discovery during research at UC Davis Olive Center of a new resin absorption method, which can be recycled. The whole resin de-bittering process has a worldwide patent and is green with complete control over the amount of phenolic content that remains in the olive. The resin can be reconstituted from the wastewater and reused, while the water itself, rich in phenols can be used for cosmetology or pharmacology.
Here again we have proof of science offering up sustainable methods to naturally enhance the foods we eat that support the body’s natural defense systems.
Nature’s Magician — Atsas Farm: Hacking Nature for an Extraordinary Olive Oil
Nicolas Nétien, manager of Atsas Organic Farm, began his talk by laying out some pretty grim facts about the state the globe is in. Climate change, desertification of lands, the slowing Gulf Stream, diminishing water resources, the pollution of our soil, the melting of the ice cap, the carbonization of oceans killing shells and corals. Most of this is caused by the growing demand to feed the world population and is hinged on the degenerative agricultural methods with which humans have been abusing the land for 30 thousand years. We are perilously close to the tipping point — or are we past it?
Just as things were getting pretty hopeless sounding, like a magician waving his cape Nicolas revealed the good news. There is a solution. It is simple and it is sublime. If we get wise, quickly, we can regenerate the soil, reverse climate change, feed the population with plenty of food superior in nutrition, restore our clean water aquifers and all at a cost less than traditional degenerative farming methods. Atsas Organic Farm is a model for this and implementing regenerative methods the farm has fast tracked in four years what would take nature 500 to accomplish. The first thing is to work with nature and this entails observing patterns and then to establish practices that speed up the natural process.
Biodiversity creates stability and it is the particular biodiversity of the soil that has been the key to the Atsas Farm success and the production of an olive oil with unprecedented levels of phenolic compounds two years running. As Nicolas says, he takes care of the soil and the trees look after themselves. Plants live in symbiotic relationship to trillions of microorganisms — just the same as the human body. And every plant lives symbiotically with other plants.
Plants create carbon from the air through photosynthesis using 10–20% for growth and sending the rest down the root system to feed the soil. These microorganisms offer a communication system whereby the plant sends out a chemical signal for an element in which it is deficient. This signal attracts the organism, which supplies the missing nutrient. As this community grows and strengthens, so do the nutrients available to the growing tree. This increasing biodiversity of microorganisms, says Nicolas, is the reason for the proliferation of phenolic compounds in the Atsas olive oil and the increase from one year to the next.
Other regenerative practices include harvesting water, creating catch basins, which hold water and capture topsoil from runoff. Indigenous plants, which require little irrigation, offer ground cover and habitat to birds, bugs and animals. Birds offer the best source of fertiliser with the added bonus of seeding new plants. In time animals will be added to the system when the trees are mature enough. In this case a breed of cow will be herded quickly through the farm mimicking the natural grazing patterns that cut grass and offer fertiliser with the same pass.
It’s a closed or circular system ultimately that is the objective, where all things are supplied by nature including beneficial insects, natural predators to harmful insects like the olive fly. The high phenolic content of the Atsas Organic olive oil is due to the ‘supermarket’ of nutrients in the soil available to the olive tree. The high phenolic content is also governed by geology of the area, temperatures, watering and the fact that the olive are harvested and processed within 30 minutes.
Atsas Farm has surpassed its own timeline and is an exquisite model of what can be done on a small scale to regenerate soil, reverse climate trends, put carbon back into the plants and earth, retain water in the soil and restore clean water aquifers all of which grow produce with superior nutritional elements. The Atsas success can be replicated which is good for the economy, good for people and good for the future.
As Nicolas proves, you can solve all the world’s problems in the garden.
The 2018 Aristoleo Awards for High Phenolic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives
Athan Gadanidis announced the winners of the Aristoleo Awards 2018. With so many international olive oil awards vying for attention, Aristoleo Awards is unique. It is not so much a competition as it is a showcase for the many superior quality olive oils now being produced that are high in health promoting phenolic compounds as measured by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) at the University of Athens but also certified by Food Allergens Labs organoleptic analysis to have zero defects.
This year the awards were allocated within ranges of phenolic content. With so many producers coming on board and producing outstanding quality of high phenolic EVOO Aristoleo needed to rethink the award process to one that was inclusive rather than exclusive.
All high phenolic EVOOs have health promoting qualities as outlined in the EU Health Claim regulation 432–2012. But one of the criteria for the Aristoleo Award registration is a phenolic content of over 500 mg/kg. Aristoleo uses this as an entry point to ensure that, if sealed and properly stored the EVOO will retain at least the recommended polyphenol content of the EU Health Claim. It is Aristoleo’s way of assuring the public that what they are buying is the quality they are expecting and paying for.
With the unprecedented success of Atsas Organic Farm ‘way out in the lead, Aristoleo wanted to make sure that all of these amazing health protective high phenolic extra virgin olive oils got their share of recognition. Consumers can then access an array of exceptional high phenolic olive oil brands for their various health and culinary objectives. Through research and observation and accurate analysis Aristoleo sees that this category is growing at a rate that will meet the growing consumer demand as research expands and becomes more available.
HRH Princess Basma was a most gracious presenter of the Aristoleo Awards for High Phenolic EVOO and Table Olives and we thank her for her kindness and encouragement to the producers.
Field Trips Friday and Tree Dedication
The conference attendees were warmly welcomed to Strakka Organic Farm by Antonis Papantoniou. The farm is owned by the Leventis Family who have a firm commitment to organic production of its extra virgin organic olive oil and many varieties and types of award winning olives. A highlight was visiting the BirdLife Cyprus where we witnessed the importance of maintaining the migratory pathways of birds, which cross all borders and impact every country.
There was a lovely luncheon under the trees in the family garden after which we made our way to Atsas Organic Farm in the UN Buffer Zone for a walkabout. Visitors got see all that Nicolas had described in his talk the day before and the synergies of nature in play. The change even from last year is remarkable and is a shining example of how quickly natural systems can be restored and enhanced.
We then visited the Atsas Training Centre and were hosted by the centre’s director, Phrosso Hadjilucas. Everyone enjoyed a tasting of the exemplary Atsas Organic oil on the deck surrounded by the gardens.
It was very moving to gather for the tree dedications to HRH Princess Basma and to Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Melliou. at Strakka Organic Farm and Atsas Organic Farm:
This olive tree is dedicated to HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan for being an advocate of biodiversity, conservation and sustainable agriculture. Atsas Organic Farm April 28, 2018
This olive tree is dedicated to Dr. Prokopios Magiatis & Dr. Eleni Melliou for their contribution to research on the health benefits of high phenolic olive oil and olives. Strakka Organic Farm April 28, 2018
We at Aristoleo are proud of our work and collaboration with Dr. Eleni Melliou, Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and others including the ARISTOIL partners to bring this most precious food to the world such as the Univ of Athens, and we want to particularly thank Larnaca & Famagusta Districts Development Agency for co-hosting this event.
ARISTOIL: “Reinforcement of Mediterranean olive oil sector competitiveness through development and application of innovative production and quality control methodologies related to olive oil health protecting properties”
HRH Princess Basma, Nicolas Nétien and George David, who have added the deeper element of sustainability through agro-ecology to our conference theme since last year, also inspire us to take our place as stewards of the earth and do what we can to share this remarkable restorative model for a successful future.
Originally published at aristoleo.com on May 4, 2018.