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Cairnmuir Olive Oils

Central Otago Regional Identity Partner

A World of Difference

The Clarks embarked on their labour of love in the late 1990s—planting a grove of 1000 olive trees in a microclimate on the gentle, north-facing slopes below the Cairnmuir foothills. Today, the award-winning, boutique charm and quality of Cairnmuir Olive Oils represents the couple’s devotion to crafting exquisite, artisan produce.

Stephen and Anna Clark

Anna Clark used to weep when one of her beloved olive trees blew over in a feisty wind, but she’s not quite as soft hearted now! When she relinquished her teaching career and Stephen took redundancy from his chemical engineering job, the couple moved to Bannockburn, living in a shed and caravan while building their house and tending their fledgling grove of Tuscan olive trees.

“In the first two years, when we were harvesting and pressing olives, we had to move out of the shed and into the caravans. That was interesting with icicles hanging off the awning.”

“I think what really appeals to me here is the mountains and their proximity. We head up into the hills, cross the road and you’re into the mountains. And the climate…I love the climate.”

“I love the seasons. I love the fog, I love the frost. Sitting inside beside the fire is my favourite time.”

Forging a Future

Central Otago value: Making a Difference

Anna and Stephen are pioneers of olive oil production in Central Otago, courageously setting inspirational new directions.

“When we first got here we decided we were going to be independent…we just wanted to be our own bosses. We wanted to make the best oil we possibly could and control the process. So, we got an olive press…the first commercial press in Central Otago. It was a bit of a gamble because nobody knew whether the olives would produce oil.”

“In the first year we only had about 3kgs of olives of our own. It was a lot of fun getting other olives to commission the press …we were fortunate that some supportive growers were happy giving olives to get the press running. We even went to Roxburgh and picked olives from a little cottage there…we traced every olive tree around the district.”

The Good Oil

Central Otago value: Having Integrity

Exacting quality without compromise is fundamental to Anna and Stephen’s success. As Central Otago’s first and largest producer of certified extra-virgin olive oil, they’ve worked hard to establish a reputation for regional excellence.

“We won’t compromise on quality to produce quantity. If trees have frosted fruit on them, we don’t pick them. Frosting taints the oil and it wouldn’t be extra virgin. We’ve always had our oil tested—both chemically and sensory—to prove that it is extra virgin olive oil.”

“When we set up the plant room we consulted with the Council’s Environmental Officer to ensure that right from the outset we complied with the Health Act requirements. We are able to look back and feel good about it, and sleep well at night.”

A Harmonious, Enduring Legacy

Central Otago value: Protecting Our Rich Heritage

The Clarks celebrate the local flora, respecting the land’s heritage and future. Poppies, wild flowers and mosses are allowed to flourish between the trees. They ramble the dry, sun-scorched banks picking wild thyme that is cleaned and dried before being pressed with the last, ripest olives picked for the season — infusing it with the distinctive wild thyme earthiness that murmurs `Central Otago.’

In realising their dreams, Anna and Stephen are creating an enduring legacy.

"Our oldest trees are up to 18 years old, so they are very young. They are old enough to be physiologically mature but compared to the age they can grow to, they’ve hardly been in preschool yet. It would be lovely to think that, in a 1000 years’ time, a wife is grizzling because she has to pick the olives."

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