Eighty students from the Matija Gubec international primary school in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, visited a Dalmatian olive grove to participate in the harvest and learn about olive oil production.
The students of the prestigious international school, attended by the children of ambassadors, diplomats, government officials, prominent athletes and business people from abroad, traveled 330 kilometers south to the olive groves of 40-year-old Krešimir Uroda near Pirovac.
The children helped harvest the olives by hand before traveling to the Sveti Ante mill in nearby Vodice to learn how olives are transformed into olive oil.
“I am extremely honored that my olive grove was chosen for this occasion,” Uroda said with satisfaction.See Also:Officials Congratulate Regional NYIOOC Winners at Ceremony in Split
“Among [the students are] the two children of tennis player Goran Ivanišević, the daughter of former international [association] football player Boško Balaban, and the son of the famous singer Severina Vučković,” he added.
Uroda’s olive grove was planted 12 years ago by his father, Ante Uroda. After leaving Čakovec, the northernmost Croatian city, where he started a family and spent his entire working life, he returned to his ancestral home.
“Something kept pulling him back to his homeland,” Uroda said, who spent every summer with his parents in Pirovac, 428 kilometers away from Čakovec. “I fell in love with this area.”
Uroda helped his father plant and grow the olive trees. However, he continued to work as an IT specialist for Elektra in Čakovec until 2017, when his father fell seriously ill and urged him to return to the olive farm in Pirovac, or he would have to sell it.
As a result, Uroda requested a transfer to Elektra’s offices in Sibenik, Dalmatia. “I made it. But, unfortunately, my father was overcome by a serious, incurable disease and died at the age of 68,” he said.
Remembering his father’s words, Uroda continued in his footsteps, dedicating his free time to olive growing and soon started producing extra virgin olive oil.
He received his first recognition four years ago at a local competition in Vodice, where he won a gold medal. He won another two years later.
When the visiting students asked him how winning the award felt, Uroda responded: “Incredible. It’s like winning the UEFA Champions League or climbing Mount Everest.”
The harvest is underway in his drywall-surrounded olive grove, which boasts 354 Oblica, Lastovka and Leccina trees. Uroda expects to harvest about two tons of fruit, yielding about 450 to 500 liters of oil.
Taking advantage of the scenic location of his olive grove, Uroda has also built a guest house for tourists.
“We built it for ourselves, for the family, and then, two years ago, when we received the necessary approvals, we offered it to tourists through Airbnb,” he said. “The response was beyond expectations.”
Uroda said guests had been delighted, adding they are attracted by the olive grove, the proximity to the sea and the untouched wilderness around Pirovac. Some guests even volunteer to help with the harvest.
In the first year, OPG Uroda booked 75 overnight stays and received the prestigious Superhost title, awarded to the platform’s best-performing properties. This year, the number of guests has doubled, and the season is still going.
“In addition to the stay, we allow our guests to taste and buy our oil,” Uroda said. “Not a single pair of guests have left without oil.”
As the harvest continues, Uroda said his oils would start entering restaurants and hotels. He also plans on selling them through an e‑commerce platform. “I believe that our business in olive growing will only go forward,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the olive groves, the students and local workers managed to harvest 350 kilograms of olives by hand before going to the mill to watch the transformation process.
Tomislav Duvnjak, an award-winning producer, runs the mill and was very satisfied with the interest the students showed in the process.
“I believe that people should be educated from a young age,” he said. “Until now, elementary school students have come to us, even from kindergartens in Vodice and neighboring towns. This is the first time from Zagreb.”
After observing the entirety of the milling process, the students received a bottle of freshly-produced extra virgin olive oil to take home.
Uroda also used the moment to announce his plans to enter the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition with the same batch.
“This is a wonderful example of how to build olive culture,” added Ivica Vlatković, an award-winning producer and president of the Zadar County Olive Growers Association, who was also in attendance.