How the Climate Makes and Breaks One Award-Winning Producer’s Harvest

The family behind Turinela Farm believes the climate in Istria is perfect for producing award-winning olive oil. However, extreme weather is their biggest obstacle.

Turinela Farm
Mar. 23, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Turinela Farm

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Dotting the gen­tle slopes of the green hills sur­round­ing a small Croatian vil­lage close to the Adriatic Sea, the pro­duc­ers behind Turinela Farm craft their award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil.

The olive trees of the Volarević fam­ily are inter­spersed with cork oaks, aro­matic lau­rels, rose­mary and laven­der just out­side of Mali Turini, in the cen­tral-west­ern part of the Istrian penin­sula.

We stud­ied the cli­mate and ana­lyzed the soil to see how best we could man­age the land.- Aurora Volarević, owner, Turinela Farm

From their trees, Aurora, Marijo, Helena and Filip Volarević craft a blend that earned a Gold Award at the last two edi­tions of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The pro­duc­ers told Olive Oil Times that the cli­mate in this north­ern olive grow­ing region is both a valu­able ally and a sig­nif­i­cant obsta­cle in pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Situated on the 45th par­al­lel, Mali Turini is among the north­ern­most olive-grow­ing regions in the world. The farm­ers believe the tem­per­a­tures are pre­cisely what a healthy and fruit­ful olive tree needs.

We are a rel­a­tively new farm, but you can find so many peo­ple through­out the coun­try who have revived old farms or dis­cov­ered they had olive trees on their land and decided to start grow­ing olives again,” Helena Volarević said. Suddenly, they found out they could pro­duce high-qual­ity olive oil.”

Turinela’s Premium Selection is a blend of the local olive Buza vari­ety with Istrian Bjelica, Pendolino, Leccino, Maurino and Lastovka olives. Since the Volarević fam­ily has its ori­gins in Dalmatia, they also planted some native Obliza trees on the farm.

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Turinela Farm

Buza olives are mainly grown in south­ern Istria and neigh­bor­ing Slovenia. Research is under­way to estab­lish its com­mon genetic her­itage with other olive trees found in the region.

In its early har­vest, this vari­ety [Buza olives] pro­duces a lively green extra vir­gin olive oil with a full-bod­ied taste, a long fruity after­taste,” Marijo Volarević said. It has char­ac­ter­is­tic olive, arti­choke and apple scents with a bal­anced piquancy and bit­ter­ness.”

While the Buza olives are the main con­trib­u­tor to their blend, Volarević said all the olive trees play an impor­tant role in estab­lish­ing the oil’s unique fla­vor.

Growing together, they begin blend­ing dur­ing the bloom­ing and pol­li­na­tion phases,” he said.

When the har­vest arrives, all the olives are picked on the same day and trans­formed into a sin­gle batch.

This ideal com­bi­na­tion of vari­eties and grove posi­tion gives the oil a supe­rior bou­quet-full, rich aroma with a spec­trum of scents with just the right bit­ter­ness and piquant,” Volarević said.

The fam­ily began pro­duc­ing olive oil in 2009, reviv­ing an uncul­ti­vated area that belonged to Aurora Volarević’s fam­ily.

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Turinela Farm

We stud­ied the cli­mate and ana­lyzed the soil to see how best we could man­age the land,” Volarević, a biotech­nol­ogy sci­en­tist, told Olive Oil Times. The area is a lit­tle more than 20,000 square meters, and we planted olive trees in three dif­fer­ent areas which are quite close to each other. Altogether there are 500 trees.”

Since reviv­ing land, the Volarević fam­ily has started tran­si­tion­ing to solely organic prac­tices.

Four years ago, we planted a few hun­dred hazel­nut trees whose cul­ti­va­tion is entirely organic. We also use com­pletely organic fer­til­izer for our olive trees,” Volarević said. Our chal­lenge here is that the nearby olive farms are not organic.”

Marijo Volarević added that the pro­duc­ers’ only non-organic inter­ven­tions are to pre­vent dam­age from the olive fruit fly.

The area is highly suit­able for qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion as local millers are equipped with state-of-the-art mills.

Our friend here with his olive mill allows us to har­vest the olives, and within a few hours from har­vest, we cold-press them,” Volarević said.

The main chal­lenge for the fam­ily is the weather. While the cli­mate is tra­di­tion­ally ideal for olive grow­ing, unex­pected events increas­ingly com­pli­cate har­vest­ing and trans­for­ma­tion.

This year, it hap­pened with the sud­den frost in the wrong moment,” Helena Volarević said. In the win­ter, the typ­i­cal win­ter freeze would have been use­ful to help kill the pests, but it does not freeze.”

In sum­mer, you get the drought. So we are con­stantly fac­ing weather which is work­ing against us,” she added. This means that we have to make sure that we are doing all we can to allow the olive trees to thrive.”

According to Marijo Volarević, the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple vari­eties and the proper prun­ing has a ben­e­fi­cial effect in cur­tail­ing the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree, but it is weather that really decides how it will go.”

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Turinela Farm

Aurora Volarević added that Istrian farm­ers notice the grow­ing impacts of cli­mate change.

We see that hap­pen­ing. For exam­ple, if the bloom­ing hap­pens too close to the start of hot weather, it can really be a prob­lem for the olives,” Volarević said.

And this hap­pened last year to some local grow­ers,” she added. Since the snow came late, the trees needed at least two weeks after­wards to begin grow­ing again. That made them bloom at least two weeks later than expected, too close to the warmest months of the year.”

Each year, the Volarević fam­ily has con­tin­ued to improve their olive farm­ing and pro­duc­tion tech­niques, which even­tu­ally gave them the con­fi­dence to enter a local qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion where they earned a gold award.

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Turinela Farm

Three years later, Turinela earned its first award at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

Since our first win in the local com­pe­ti­tion, we were say­ing that a day would have come that we could win an award in New York,” Aurora Volarević said.

The fam­ily explained how they would not have won these awards with­out learn­ing from local farm­ers, whose expe­ri­ence proved essen­tial in under­stand­ing how to face the many chal­lenges of olive farm­ing.

The com­mu­nity here is very rel­e­vant for us,” Helena Volarević said. We are in a small area, where peo­ple exchange views. We sup­port each other.”

With the other olive oil pro­duc­ers, we exchange views on prun­ing tech­niques and best prac­tices, but also work together and try to work to show the world how local extra vir­gin olive oil can be a truly high-qual­ity prod­uct,” Marijo Volarević con­cluded


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