Love is not a miracle, but it works wonders. This can be said about the success achieved by the family farm OPG Lucio from the Croatian island of Solta in Dalmatia.
The feeling is indescribable. We are participating for the first time and then two awards. We are immensely happy and grateful to the olive trees that give us back our hard work and love.
“We are not professionals, olive growing is our hobby and love,” said Dafne Ružić. She and her husband Mario (54) do not hide their satisfaction that their two oils, the monovarietal Lucio Šoltanka and the Lucio Oblica and Šoltanka blend, won the first two Gold Awards for Croatia in the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition in New York as results continue to unfold.
“The feeling is indescribable,” Dafne Ružić told Olive Oil Times. “We are participating for the first time and then two awards. We are immensely happy and grateful to the olive trees that give us back our hard work and love. ”See Also:NYIOOC Live Updates
The life story of Dafne and Mario is interesting and inspiring. They were born and live in Split, the largest city in Dalmatia and the second largest in Croatia, right next to the capital Zagreb. Behind them are successful careers. Mario sailed all over the world on cruises and lived in New York for a while. He is a successful entrepreneur. And Dafne is a tennis champion and coach. She was a member of the national team and champion of the former state of Yugoslavia in the pioneer, junior and senior categories.
“I didn’t win Wimbledon like Goran Ivanisevic, but he didn’t win the NYIOOC either,” laughs Dafne.
After a successful playing career, she founded a tennis school in Berlin, Germany, and is now engaged in professional studies at the University of Split. She did not give up tennis, her first vocation and love. Just these days she plans to go to New York where she trains the children of American families.
“They’re in love with our olive oil,” Dafne says with a characteristic smile.
About 20 years ago, she fell in love with Mario. Mutual love grew into a marriage and they had a son Noah (18), today a tall young man and an excellent student in Split. Little by little, the family began to return to its roots, and 15 years ago Mario decided to restore his grandfather’s farm on Šolta. The property is located near Grohote.
The island of Solta is otherwise known for its top-quality olive oil and untouched nature, as well as a particularly large number of medicinal herbs.
“When we first came, we found a neglected property. It was overgrown with thorns and bushes, but we immediately knew that the place was special” Ružić recalls. After months of cleaning, the beautiful olive trees planted by Mario’s great-grandfather Lucio emerged.
On the neighboring plot, they met Josip Bilankov (Bepa), their future best friend and mentor. “He knew everything about olives. Learning from him, we developed a great love for these wonderful and beautiful trees,” Dafne and Mario said. Unfortunately, Bepo died five years ago without receiving the awards they won. He would certainly be proud of the success of his students.
As time passes for the Ružićs, the realization is growing that the trees that have been there for about 100 years should remain for a long time after them for future generations. In the desire to spend their free time more often in nature and in contact with the land, they bought more, so today the property extends to 10,000 square meters.
Along with the restoration of about 80 old ones, they planted a dozen new olive trees — mostly of the Oblica and Levantinka varieties, with occasional Lastovka and Mastrinka.
They also added buildings in the traditional style — three stone houses (Hacienda Lucio) with associated kitchens, open for use in the summer months. They built dry stone walls, planted figs and citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, mandarins), along with olives grow lavender, rosemary, immortelle and other Mediterranean herbs.
In the distillery, Dapfe produces natural fruit juices and other delicacies, as well as hydrolates (herbal tonics) and essential oils of immortelle, lavender, rosemary, myrtle, sage, laurel, fennel, lemon, orange, grapefruit and other herbs from the estate.
There is also a swimming pool, golf course, swings for children, trampoline, table tennis, basketball, bow and arrow, badminton and other facilities.
“Today, our friends and tourists enjoy the ambience, and are especially looking forward to the olive oil from the estate,” Dafne noted. She and Mario know that oleotourism is strongly developing in neighboring Italy, that olive oil and olive groves are becoming popular tourist attractions. This is a good signpost for Croatian olive growers to provide an additional source of income in their own olive groves.
Olives require care and attention throughout the year. That is why Ružići uses every free time to go to the estate. He is also helped by his son Noah, who is slowly gaining the necessary knowledge for a future olive grower.
They have just finished pruning, and they will do all the other agro-technical works on time in order to achieve a good harvest and quality fruit this year as well.
They are also supported by an almost ideal micro-location. The property is 50 to 100 meters above sea level. “There is always wind here, the area is perfect. Limestone with little fertile soil rich in minerals and a climate with hot and dry summers and medicinal herbs suit the olives and give Solta oil.”