`An Olive Oil School in the South of France - Olive Oil Times

An Olive Oil School in the South of France

Mar. 21, 2011
Alice Alech

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The Town Council of Sanary, a port town on the Mediterranean coast of France believes that edu­cat­ing young chil­dren is a great way to achieve and main­tain a healthy olive oil cul­ture for future gen­er­a­tions.

Located in the heart of the Provence, one of the sun­ni­est regions in France, Sanary is per­fect for olive oil cul­ti­va­tion. The early learn­ing pro­gram put into place will edu­cate school chil­dren in the grow­ing of olives and olive oil pro­duc­tion. This is the first year of the pilot plan.

It all started in 2003 when the mayor of this Provençal town, Ferdinand Bernhard, decided to launch an action pro­gram for 21st cen­tury sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. Determined to pre­serve the nat­ural her­itage as well as the envi­ron­ment, he res­cued seven acres of aban­doned waste­land for­merly used for grow­ing olive trees. After much clear­ing and clean­ing among the old stones and hun­dred year old olive trees, the area was ready for plant­ing.


In 2005, three hun­dred new olive trees were planted. Le Jardin des Oliviers (the olive tree gar­den) became a true olive grove par­adise using envi­ron­men­tally friendly cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques. Today, the restored Jardin des Oliviers pro­vides an ideal loca­tion for the activ­i­ties of L’éducation à l’environnement pour un développe­ment Durable(edu­ca­tion for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, or EEDD)

Teaching school chil­dren about olives and olive oil is part of the pilot project launched by the mayor and EEED to edu­cate chil­dren on sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

Early edu­ca­tion of olives and olive oil mean doesn’t mean tak­ing the 52 classes out to admire the fruit and trees. It is a well thought-out planned exer­cise.

The Town Council has taken on Chrystel Massa to over­see the project. As pro­gram man­ager for EEDD, she is respon­si­ble for coor­di­nat­ing, pro­mot­ing and imple­ment­ing ped­a­gog­i­cal meth­ods in schools. In addi­tion, she is in charge of all vis­its by the chil­dren (olive oil mills and Le Jardin des Oliviers) as well as orga­niz­ing experts to talk to the chil­dren.

Learning activ­i­ties will be mostly out­door this first year. Three ped­a­gog­i­cal out­door stud­ies are planned for next year to be fol­lowed by teach­ing in the class­room. Pedagogical meth­ods will vary and be adapted accord­ing to class,” Chrystel said. The chil­dren, aged between five and eleven will take part in work­shops, vis­its and field­trips; EEDD has already appointed three teach­ers for this first year.

November 25 was an excit­ing, fun and infor­ma­tive first day for orga­niz­ers, teach­ers and chil­dren. Two classes, cho­sen for the pilot study this year vis­ited Le Jardin des Oliviers and hand picked almost a hun­dred kilos of olives; each class was also allowed to plant an olive tree.

Jean Luc Granet, Delegate for the Environment at the Sanary City Council accom­pa­nied the 53 school chil­dren from schools in and around Sanary. A farmer and native of Sanary, Jean Luc recently trained in olive trees and organic olive oil farm­ing. He was able to share his knowl­edge on the his­tory of the site and the ben­e­fits of organic farm­ing with the chil­dren.

He said The teach­ers, pupils and I really appre­ci­ated this first expe­ri­ence even though we com­bined a class of kinder­garten (four to five year old) and pri­mary schools (10 to 11 year old) the teach­ing mate­r­ial was very well adapted.”

The sec­ond part of the project will involve a guided visit to an olive oil mill; class­room activ­i­ties will include his­tory and geog­ra­phy of olive trees as well as the health prop­er­ties of olives.

The third part of the project planned for the spring will show pupils how grow­ers deal with insect threats to the groves.

The chil­dren will each receive a bot­tle of olive oil obtained from the olives they picked on their first visit. Tapenade and olive oil bread made from tra­di­tional Mediterranean recipes will also be sam­pled by the lucky chil­dren.

Jardin des Oliviers is clearly a suc­cess. Planting of olive trees six years ago has pro­duced 621 kilo­grams of olives and almost 100 liters of olive oil the first year. Today, the orchard con­tains 400 olive trees with at least a hun­dred dif­fer­ent vari­eties. (Oleo Cayon, Cayet bleu, Grossanne)

And, the com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to grow. The munic­i­pal­ity has recently bought adja­cent plots and more plant­ing and grow­ing will take place.

Jardin des Oliviers is in their sec­ond year of con­ver­sion hop­ing to have the French national AB label by 2013. Organic reg­u­la­tions in France stip­u­late a three year period of bio” con­di­tions before obtain­ing the organic label.

Jardin des Oliviers and Ecole des Oliviers are offer­ing prac­ti­cal solu­tions in sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. Significant Changes are being made to improve the envi­ron­ment with a com­mu­nity work­ing towards a com­mon goal.

Equally impor­tant, Ecole des Oliviers will be ben­e­fi­cial to the olive oil indus­try in France; when kids go to L’école des Oliviers they will learn how to nur­ture the long time cul­ture of olive oil farm­ing.

Photos: Bernard Laire

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