In Turkey, Father and Son Rediscover Roots to Craft Award-Winning EVOO

The founder of Turkey’s Darvari Gida Tarim honors his family’s past by forging forward with a new olive oil-producing future.
Preparing for an olive oil tasting at the Darvari Estate
Jul. 25, 2022
Costas Vasilopoulos

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It took only a short trip to an olive grove in Turkey five years ago for Eugen Prundeanu and his son Alex to decide that olive oil pro­duc­tion was yet another busi­ness sec­tor they would enter.

There’s some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing and peace­ful when you step into an olive grove,” Eugen Prundeanu told Olive Oil Times. You’ll sense it as a won­der­ful pres­ence, as a gift.”

We don’t just go for the mar­ket shelf, we try to estab­lish our pres­ence and cre­ate aware­ness about Darvari Garden in par­tic­u­lar, but also about extra vir­gin olive oil qual­i­ties in gen­eral.- Eugen Prundeanu, co-owner, Darvari̇ Gida Tarim

To us, father and son, it felt some­what sim­i­lar: a won­der­ful moment of togeth­er­ness, peace, a sort of priv­i­lege,” he added. Somehow, we knew this feel­ing embod­ied a hid­den promise, but we had no idea what it was. We decided to explore this invit­ing path.”

The flash of inspi­ra­tion they found among the olive trees took shape and devel­oped into Darvari Gida Tarim, an olive farm in the vil­lage of Mecidiye, near Çanakkale in the north­west of Turkey.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Our groves are a breeze away from the Sea of Marmara, next to the Dardanelles Strait, in the area of Geyikli,” Prundeanu said. You can meet us for a cup of tea in our main office in Çanakkale and from there it is but a short drive to our vil­lage farm in Mecidiye, between Geyikli, Troy and Ida Mountain.”

However, Prundeanu, who is of Romanian descent, real­ized from the out­set that this was an occu­pa­tion unlike any other in his hec­tic career in indus­trial man­u­fac­tur­ing – one that would prompt him to retrace the foot­steps of his fam­ily back to his ances­tral land.

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We dis­cov­ered that our fam­ily had his­tor­i­cal ties with that estranged place in Çanakkale and that they owned olive groves there,” he said. A few cen­turies back, the Darvari fam­ily was a cat­a­lyst for eco­nomic and cul­tural growth in the Balkans, and they are still remem­bered in Romania as the founders of a beau­ti­ful lit­tle Orthodox church and monastery in Bucharest, the Darvari Skete. We cher­ish this per­sonal legacy, and it was, for years, a good omen for the Darvari Holding as a whole.”

Yet, the olive grove we bought in Turkey was a turn in a com­pletely new direc­tion, a redis­cov­ery of our roots, of the joy of the land,” Prundeanu added. This is why we call our olive oil project the Darvari Garden.”

The olive farm of Darvari boasts more than 30 hectares of groves cov­ered with 6,000 olive trees of the Edremit and Ayvalik vari­eties.

The com­pany has also set its sights on the cur­rently untapped and unex­plored Hanım Parmağı, an olive vari­ety endemic to the Ezine-Geyikli region.

The Hanım Parmağı vari­ety is the local star we are set to put to a bet­ter use,” Prundeanu said. The lab results of the oil extracted from these olives were very promis­ing, to say the least, so we use it for graft­ing and increas­ing the grove when needed.”

Darvari has also launched an eight-year-long pro­gram to mon­i­tor sta­tis­tics for vir­tu­ally every tree on the farm, includ­ing their age and size, health, har­vested olive quan­tity and its peri­od­ic­ity, type and quan­tity of organic fer­til­izer use and test results for the leaves of the olive trees.

We are slowly get­ting deeper and deeper into get­ting to know our trees per­son­ally’,” Prundeanu said. Obviously, this also gives us at any time a gran­u­lar view as well as a nuanced ver­sion of the big pic­ture.”

An estab­lished entre­pre­neur, Prundeanu brought the ded­i­ca­tion and method­i­cal plan­ning from his indus­trial man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness to his olive oil busi­ness, dous­ing the lat­ter with an essence of tra­di­tion and local com­pe­tence.

Returns on invest­ments in this type of farm­ing indus­try usu­ally take decades, so I think the input of the Darvari Holding strate­gic devel­op­ment expe­ri­ence was prov­i­den­tial,” he said. But even more so, the very local expe­ri­ence we inte­grate in these facil­i­ties is invalu­able, as we strive to main­tain a tra­di­tional per­spec­tive on the whole process of olive oil pro­duc­tion. This is essen­tial.”

In addi­tion, using nat­ural pest repel­lents, care­fully man­ag­ing water sup­plies for irri­ga­tion, and pro­tect­ing local vari­eties are fun­da­men­tal prac­tices at Darvari Gida Tarim.

profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-in-turkey-father-and-son-rediscover-roots-to-craft-awardwinning-evoo-olive-oil-times

Petru Eugen Prundeanu and Cem Erdilek

Clearly, I’m biased, but I still think tra­di­tional olive oil pro­duc­ers were never in the busi­ness of harm­ing the planet,” Prundeanu said in jest. We even design cus­tom equip­ment and tools for har­vest­ing to pre­serve the qual­ity of olives and pro­tect the trees from harm. It is not only our norm but that of the gen­uine olive oil cul­ture.”

Prundeanu was also quick to acknowl­edge the para­mount con­tri­bu­tion of Darvari’s employ­ees to the company’s pros­per­ity.

The late Erdinc Uzden, whose mem­ory we pre­serve with grat­i­tude and respect, was piv­otal in open­ing our per­spec­tive to the olive oil cul­ture,” he said. We first met under a 500-year-old olive tree and shook hands to estab­lish our col­lab­o­ra­tion in the tra­di­tional way.”

We also received pre­cious advice from the good-hearted Kardes Sinan Erdogan, Darvari̇ Gida Tarimdogan and we ben­e­fit from the energy of our gen­eral man­ager, Cem Murat Erdilek,” he added. Engin and Ihsan Yilmaz, who com­bined have over a cen­tury of expe­ri­ence, are entrusted with the farm­ing activ­i­ties.”

The com­pany is cur­rently in the process of cre­at­ing a ver­ti­cally inte­grated pro­duc­tion com­plex on-site, cov­er­ing all the required processes from extrac­tion to stor­age and pack­ag­ing of olive oil.

We expect to use it for next year’s har­vest,” Prundeanu said. The mill, with a total capac­ity of 140 tons per day, will be installed in a new Assos Stone build­ing. Storage-wise, we’ll grow the ini­tial 550 tons capac­ity to a com­mu­nity-size of 2,500 tons, avail­able for the neigh­bor­ing farms’ needs as well as ours.”

profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-in-turkey-father-and-son-rediscover-roots-to-craft-awardwinning-evoo-olive-oil-times

The planned production facility at Darvari̇ Gida Tarim

Darvari has also devel­oped notable activ­ity in the local com­mu­nity by sup­port­ing the found­ing of the Çanakkale Olive and Olive Oil Producers Association and by join­ing a busi­ness ven­ture with other local pro­duc­ers and the Geyikli Agricultural Development Cooperative.

This way, we added 15,000 more olive trees to a local cir­cuit of best prac­tices and mutual ben­e­fit,” Prundeanu said.

The first local olive oil feast, sched­uled for this autumn in Çanakkale, is next on their agenda.

As is the case in such local gath­er­ings, we’ll show and test our prod­ucts next to our neigh­bors’,” Prundeanu said. On the one hand, our nat­u­rally brine-cured green and black olives, and, of course, our extra vir­gin olive oil in both our trade­mark brands, Darvari Ottoman and Byzantium by Darvari.”

profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-in-turkey-father-and-son-rediscover-roots-to-craft-awardwinning-evoo-olive-oil-times

Darvari̇ Gida Tarim grows 6,000 olive trees on 30 hectares with plans to expand.

The extra vir­gin olive oils of Darvari were a source of gen­uine pride for the com­pany at the tenth edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition this year.

The pro­ducer earned four awards – two Gold and two Silver Awards – lead­ing the way among Turkish entrants.

Furthermore, Darvari climbed up the lad­der of suc­cess in the com­pe­ti­tion after only three years in the busi­ness, being extremely quick on the uptake.

It is great that we were able to estab­lish a major ref­er­ence point at the 2022 NYIOOC,” Prundeanu said with grat­i­fi­ca­tion. It helps to remem­ber that this com­pe­ti­tion has been part of our jour­ney since we started three years ago.”

Like many times in life, when we look back, we clearly see some of our mis­steps,” he added. It was pre­cisely the sum of pre­vi­ous fail­ures that made us lis­ten, via an invis­i­ble pro­fes­sional dia­logue between Çanakkale and New York.”

Branding-wise, in our per­sonal quest, we are sim­ply try­ing to catch up’ with the good name the Darvari fam­ily had for cen­turies in cul­ture, spir­i­tu­al­ity, and phil­an­thropy,” Prundeanu con­tin­ued. It is also essen­tial to be able to show that we are not usurpers of the his­tor­i­cal legacy of names like Byzantium or Ottoman.”

Primarily an export-ori­ented com­pany, Darvari’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy has been infused with the exper­tise of its founder, look­ing to offer an opti­mized expe­ri­ence to con­sumers.

We don’t just go for the mar­ket shelf, we try to estab­lish our pres­ence and cre­ate aware­ness about Darvari Garden in par­tic­u­lar, but also about the extra vir­gin olive oil qual­i­ties in gen­eral,” Prundeanu said.

Such a cam­paign meant dis­trib­ut­ing 12,000 Darvari Ottoman and Byzantium bot­tles to bet­ter estab­lish a future con­sumer dia­logue plat­form,” he added. The bet is that our rep­u­ta­tion will pre­cede us.”

However, Prundeanu pointed out that the road ahead is not always laid with rose petals for small pro­duc­ers who have to strive for their long-term via­bil­ity.

A gen­uine dif­fi­culty we face in Çanakkale (and maybe a com­mon one for all other regions in Turkey or even all over the world) is how to imple­ment mod­ern and strate­gic man­age­ment tools to help small and mid­dle-sized farms and farm­ers sur­vive,” he said. It is a beau­ti­ful life, it is a hard life.”

The pro­ducer added that the com­ple­tion of the Darvari Garden com­plex in Mecidiye is the next essen­tial mile­stone for the com­pany and their entire farm­ing fam­ily in Çanakkale.

However, our real chal­lenge is to have the same level of qual­ity for our entire pro­duc­tion and even estab­lish it as a com­mu­nity best prac­tice stan­dard in the area of Geyikli,” he said.

The out­come of these efforts is yet unknown, but we are con­fi­dent in our jour­ney,” Prundeanu con­cluded. You see, we have this won­der­ful, holy tree from God, a most pre­cious gift, like the green of our gar­den. We want to share its fruits and health with you all.”


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