“The Gay Farmer” brand of organic extra virgin olive oil raised over £3,000 for the LGBT charity Stonewall last month at a fundraising event in London. The event was the brainchild of an olive farmer, Mark Dyer who passionately supports Stonewall’s mission to wipe out homophobia in schools.
Dyer transformed his olive oil stall at London’s Maltby Street Market into a hub of information highlighting the work of Stonewall. The charity’s objective is “Acceptance without Exception.” At the event, information and advice were dished out along with Dyer’s quirky brand of organic EVOO.
Dyer launched “The Gay Farmer” brand of organic EVOO in 2008, after a friend jokingly asked him, “What are you calling yourself, the bloody gay farmer?” Dyer realized the name was risky, but embraced the opportunity to use the word “gay” positively, and went with the brand.
The Gay Farmer olive oil is produced from Picual and Arbequina olive trees on Dyer’s farm in Moratalla Murcia, Spain. Dyer has 50 olive trees which produce between 100 and 200 liters of oil annually. The brand is supplemented by oil sourced from certified organic olive groves in Ace Agra, near Caresparra.
Dyer divides his time between the UK and Spain. He supplies gourmet food shops in London and Brighton and sells his olive oil at Maltby Street Market. Dyer is hands-on at his farm during the olive harvest, which he describes as “bloody hard work.” He returns to Spain frequently to package oil.
When asked if he saw himself as the Tim Cook of the olive oil industry, Dyer laughingly replied, “That would be an accolade; I think I have some way to go. However breaking boundaries and using the word “gay” in a positive way is a start.”
Dyer decided to package his EVOO in eye-catching silver cans with strong branding, to make the product stand out. Dyer told Olive Oil Times “I have never been much of a follower, far more a leader.”
Packaging the olive oil in cans protects it from light and is more environmentally friendly than glass bottles, he pointed out. The recyclable cans were also lighter than bottles, which reduced the costs of transporting the EVOO from Spain to the UK.
Dyer’s passion for Stonewall’s work in schools arose from his own childhood suffering at the hands of homophobic bullies. He went on to make a name for himself on the London food scene and became committed to using the Gay Farmer Brand as a way of raising funds and awareness for Stonewall.
“We hope to make this a yearly event (to benefit) Stonewall. I really want to continue to do as much as I can.”
Dyer recently expanded his range by adding fresh pesto, made from his organic EVOO and other high-quality ingredients. In the future, he hopes to own a small farm in the UK.