The Agustín Serés Memorial Award recognizes individual and collective efforts to promote, disseminate and memorialize olive oil culture in Spain.
Entries for the ninth edition of the award are now open and will be accepted until March 19.
I still think that the culture of olive oil is really an unresolved issue for the citizens of this country.
“There are many awards dedicated to recognizing the qualities of olive oil in our country and worldwide, but it is exceptional to recognize the culture of oil and the personal effort put into making it,” Paco Lorenzo, one of the judges of this year’s competition and the winner of the first edition, said.
“In fact, I still think that the culture of olive oil is really an unresolved issue for the citizens of this country,” he added.
Lorenzo was unanimously selected as the winner of the 2010 contest for his book, Museos del Aceite en España (Olive Oil Museums of Spain), for which he visited 88 olive oil museums throughout the country, discussing culture and history through photographs.
Lorenzo did not enter the contest that year, but the Serés Santamaria family, who sponsor the event, unanimously decided to award him the prize for his 2008 book.
“We already knew about Dr. Lorenzo’s work and travels around Spain looking for olive oil resources for some time,” Agustín Serés said. “The book is unique in its kind in our country.”
Serés is a doctor but grew up on an olive oil mill in an area of northeastern Spain with a rich olive oil heritage.
“I was born in Alpicat, Lérida, in the heart of Segrià, in a family that had a small oil mill, one of the four that the town had then,” he said. “That little oil mill is now a museum dedicated to the culture of olive oil. From this arises my link with our ancestral olive oil culture.”
Serés Sr produced olive oil at the mill with very limited resources, which was typical at the time. As olive oil production shifts toward larger operations, Serés Jr uses these awards to prevent this past from becoming forgotten.
“I wanted to know the personal effort that my father made could be preserved along with our family heritage for the enjoyment of others,” he said. “[I also wanted these awards] to cover a space in the culture of olive oil in the Segrià region that has always been an olive-growing region.”
The Serés Santamaria family now work with Lorenzo and Olearum, of which he is president, to award the €1,000 prize each year.
This year, contestants will be able to submit projects about the environment of olive oil, new technologies, history, gastronomy, and heritage conservation, among others. However, sometimes other factors, such as the entry’s social commitment, can be the deciding factor.
“Last year’s edition was very disputed, in the end, there were two entries tied, but one of them had a greater social commitment, particularly with people with disabilities and that decided the balance,” Lorenzo said.
Colival, an olive oil cooperative based in Valdepeñas, won the award for their oleotourism program, which was aimed at informing children about the health, organoleptic and gastronomic virtues of extra-virgin olive oil.
“We thought that it was a project that could be adopted by multiple companies and cooperatives in our country,” Lorenzo said. “The differentiating factor was that it worked extensively to spread olive oil culture and included people with disabilities in the project.”
Normally between five and 10 projects are presented each year. Projects may be re-entered, but winning projects can not. According to Lorenzo, several projects that have won did so on their second try.
Serés is looking forward to this year’s entrants, both old and new. Since he began giving out the awards in 2010, Serés said he has noticed a revival in olive oil culture in the region.
“The award-winning projects are a magnificent example that with little means, you can achieve magnificent and successful goals that exemplify the culture of olives and olive oil,” he said.