Award-Winning Producer Returned to Ancestral Groves to Continue a Family Tradition

Ante Šišak believes that his first-ever NYIOOC award validates his work and hopes to expand. However, he faces several obstacles.

Ante Šišak
May. 10, 2022
By Nedjeljko Jusup
Ante Šišak

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We know we have qual­ity oil. It has been awarded at local com­pe­ti­tions, but this is above all our expec­ta­tions,” 25-year-old Ante Šišak told Olive Oil Times after hear­ing the news of his 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition recog­ni­tion. It’s a dream come true.”

The pro­ducer behind OPG Šišak from Dubravice, a small town in the largest Croatian olive grow­ing region, Dalmatia, won a Gold Award at the world’s largest and most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion held annu­ally in New York.

I want to con­tinue the fam­ily tra­di­tion. My grand­fa­ther, great-grand­fa­ther and older ances­tors were engaged in olive growing…and the award in New York is a dream come true.- Ante Šišak, owner, OPG Šišak

Winning the prize in the com­pe­ti­tion of 1,244 olive oils from 28 coun­tries is a great recog­ni­tion and a great mar­ket­ing step for­ward,” Šišak said. Now our oil is even more valu­able.”

He knows that the oils awarded at the NYIOOC are included in the 2022 edi­tion of the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils. The competition’s results are mon­i­tored by man­u­fac­tur­ers, importers, dis­trib­u­tors, chefs, hos­pi­tal­ity experts and jour­nal­ists world­wide.

See Also:Producer Profiles

We will also receive a stat­uette and a sticker, which will adorn our award-win­ning oil,” Šišak added.

Like many of this year’s award-win­ning pro­duc­ers, he has an inter­est­ing story. Šišak was born in Ploče in the extreme south of Croatia, where his par­ents, mother Vera and father Nikola, still live.

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When Šišak turned 18, he moved to Dubravice, where his grand­par­ents lived. I live here alone, but I’m not alone,” Šišak said. He is a pro­fes­sional chef with eight years of expe­ri­ence, but his love and future are olives and olive oil.

I want to con­tinue the fam­ily tra­di­tion,” he added. My grand­fa­ther, great-grand­fa­ther and older ances­tors were engaged in olive grow­ing.”

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Ante Šišak

Respecting this tra­di­tion, OPG Šišak pro­duces organic extra vir­gin olive oil obtained exclu­sively by the mechan­i­cal cold-press­ing process.

The pro­ducer owns three olive groves with more than 130 olive trees. Some olive groves are inher­ited, while one is a new plan­ta­tion. Regardless, his groves increase in size each year near Krka national park.

While Šišak has enjoyed this steady growth, he believes that he must expand the groves more quickly.
His main obsta­cle to this is the land, much of which is uncul­ti­vated. However, the state does not want to sell.

Near Skradin, in cen­tral Dalmatia’s Šibenik-Knin County, about 15,600 hectares of state-owned land are suit­able for plant­ing and grow­ing crops. Experts have cal­cu­lated that as many as 322,320 new olive trees can be planted on this land, which is over­grown with forests, bushes and mead­ows.

State land is not pos­si­ble [to pur­chase] due to legal ambi­gu­i­ties and admin­is­tra­tive obsta­cles,” Šišak said.

Along with this obsta­cle, he added that there is not enough avail­able land to take advan­tage of cur­rent Croatian and European rural devel­op­ment funds to expand.

Uncultivated land is dead cap­i­tal,” he said.

Šišak did not go to Germany or any other European coun­try to make a liv­ing as many young Croats have done.

There is noth­ing bet­ter than work­ing on your prop­erty and mak­ing a liv­ing from your work,” Šišak said.

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By buy­ing or rent­ing state land, he wishes to con­tinue to increase olive groves in what he describes, and the NYIOOC val­i­dates, as an incred­i­bly apt place to pro­duce high-qual­ity olive oil.

The Mediterranean cli­mate and soil are ideal for olive grow­ing, and the Krka river is famous for its beau­ti­ful water­falls. It also pro­vides the oppor­tu­nity to irri­gate. Without irri­ga­tion, there is no suc­cess,” Šišak said.

He still uses the drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem, which he cred­ited for a con­sis­tent har­vest every year.

Šišak prefers to grow the local autochtho­nous vari­eties Oblica, Krvavica, Lastovka, Levantinka, Buža, Istraska Anjelica, Buhar and Kosmač, all of which are cer­ti­fied organic.

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The Gold Award winner

Šišak earned his Gold Award at the NYIOOC for a medium blend com­pris­ing the afore­men­tioned vari­eties, which stands out for its bal­anced bit­ter­ness and piquancy and rich­ness of taste and aroma.

The NYIOOC judges also empha­sized the taste sen­sa­tions of green almonds, tomato leaves and ripe notes of toma­toes and pine nuts.

Oil is the god of the gods, and the award in New York is a dream come true,” Šišak said, indi­cat­ing that this award was a step­ping stone for his work in olive grow­ing and oil pro­duc­tion to con­tinue. Despite obsta­cles from the state.


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