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Immortalizing Ancient Olive Trees Through Images

Adoni Dimakos follows the Laconian paths the Medieval geographer Pausanias walked in the 2nd century to capture endangered olive oil trees in images and 'sensitize' local farming populations about their eradication.

Adoni Dimakos
Nov. 29, 2016
By Stav Dimitropoulos
Adoni Dimakos

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The pic­turesque pre­fec­ture of Laco­nia in the south­ern-most tip of main­land Greece holds a rep­u­ta­tion for its impres­sive vari­eties of olive trees — apart from host­ing the leg­endary city of Sparta as its cap­i­tal, that is.

In Laco­nia, there are olive trees bear­ing olive vari­eties like Athi­no­lie, Kout­sourolie and Koroneike, along­side many other local species dat­ing back to antiq­uity, as Medieval Greek geo­g­ra­pher Pau­sa­nias observed in the 2nd cen­tury AD and in his book the Descrip­tion of Greece.”

These are the same vari­eties Adoni Dimakos, a repat from Canada, stum­bles upon every day in his bid to explore the very areas described in Pau­sa­nias’ book. Much to his awe, the cor­re­la­tions between ancient ruins and enor­mous olive tree trunks are astound­ing. And there’s more.

Dimakos has been in the his­tor­i­cally and nat­u­rally priv­i­leged area for a year, but his pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy, motocross, his­tory and nat­ural beauty has already inspired him to spear­head an ambi­tious project of pho­tograph­ing time-hon­ored olive trees, as illus­trated in his web­site olivetree123.com.

Unfor­tu­nately, he finds Greece in its sev­enth year of reces­sion. Decades of mis­man­age­ment in all things agri­cul­ture have also cre­ated an unfair state of affairs for the national emblem of the olive oil tree. As a result of what I call fac­tory farm­ing, dig­ni­fied trees that once stood tall and proud are reduced to a meter high stub, a com­mon prac­tice see­ing as it requires a bull­dozer to rip out an olive tree’s deep roots and not many peo­ple can afford to do this,” Dimakos reports from Laco­nia.

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Farm­ers sim­ply chain­saw them and leave behind a fright­ful reminder of the trees’ for­mer glory, and this for wood burn­ing, or to make room for plant­ing new crop. More­over, dur­ing the years where sub­si­dies were being doled out to farm­ers for them to plant orange trees, many ancient olive trees were ripped out of the soil to be replaced with orange trees,” the Greek nature-lover said.

Under these cir­cum­stances, Dimakos wants olivetree123.com to become an online almanac. It will act as a repos­i­tory of ancient and rare olive tree spec­i­mens, he said, and help save from extinc­tion the remain­ing ancient olive oil trees scat­tered all over the Greek coun­try­side. Hope­fully, and with the increas­ing pub­lic­ity it is gain­ing — peo­ple from across Europe are already jump­ing on board to sup­port his cause by shar­ing their pho­tos with him to post on the web­site — it can moti­vate the local author­i­ties to insti­gate some kind of leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the ancient trees.

Another hope is that the ini­tia­tive will sen­si­tize local farm­ers, who, influ­enced by adver­sity, prob­a­bly ignore the national trea­sures that sur­round them. I do not hold grudges against local com­mu­ni­ties for not being recep­tive to my cause,” answers Dimakos. Mod­ern farm­ers have fam­i­lies to feed, and if they can increase their har­vest by plant­ing four or five olive saplings in the place of one regal, but no longer fruit-pro­duc­ing tree, they will. But I will do any­thing to help raise aware­ness regard­ing this epi­demic, to inform the pub­lic and to immor­tal­ize such stately olive trees by way of pho­tog­ra­phy.”

To all appear­ances, Mother Nature has already taken care of the olive oil tree immor­tal­iza­tion” detail. A Greek say­ing has it that the olive tree is immor­tal. Even if a tree stump is a foot off the ground, it will release buds and grow branches right away,” con­firmed Dimakos.

Hun­dreds of years may pass before the stump morphs into the paragon of per­fec­tion that bears the fruite for Liq­uid Gold, but nature has made the olive one of the most resilient trees on Earth.

Except for the bio­log­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of such a fact, this means that olive oil and all its culi­nary and health ben­e­fits will con­tinue to find their way to our kitchens and din­ing tables,” a spir­ited Adoni Dimakos con­cluded with ances­tral wis­dom in a sen­tence.



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