In Slovenia, Hard Work and Keeping it Simple

Franc Morgan planted his first trees thirty years ago on his farm in Grintovec. Going organic was the plan from the beginning and he became one of the first organic olive oil producers in Slovenia.

Franz Morgan
Apr. 2, 2019
By Pablo Esparza
Franz Morgan

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Franc Morgan’s farm is steps away from his family’s house in Grintovec, a small vil­lage with a pop­u­la­tion of around 80 in Slovenian Istria.

I thought that with lit­tle work we could plant olive trees. Then we real­ized that it was not a lit­tle work but a lot of work.- Franc Morgan

His dog Collie — a black and white bor­der col­lier — fol­lows him while he walks down the unpaved path lead­ing to the olive grove, planted in ter­races that make the slope of the hill like a huge stair­way.

I started from noth­ing, from zero. Just from scratch. Thirty years ago we planted the first 200 olive trees. Then 200 more… And now I believe we have around 1,000 trees”, Morgan tells Olive Oil Times.






Morgan’s fam­ily had always pro­duced oil for self-con­sump­tion, like many oth­ers on the coast of Slovenia, the only region of the European coun­try where the cli­mate allows olive trees farm­ing. However, after his father died, Franc started think­ing about what to do with his land in order to keep it pro­duc­tive.

I thought that with lit­tle work we could plant olive trees. Then we real­ized that it was not a lit­tle work but a lot of work,” he laughs.

Going organic was part of Morgan’s plans from the begin­ning and he became one of the first organic olive oil pro­duc­ers of the coun­try.

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Nowadays it’s easy grow­ing organic, but 15 or 20 years ago there was not a sin­gle reg­is­tered prod­uct in Slovenia, let’s say, to treat the olive fly,” he says.

When asked how it is like pro­duc­ing organic olive oil in Slovenia, Morgan’s answer is straight­for­ward. It’s as if grow­ing organic was the nat­ural path. We just con­tinue doing things like it’s always been done”, Morgan says.

We have very good land to pro­duce organic oil. Because as you can see, around us there are only forests. There is no traf­fic, there are no fac­to­ries harm­ing our olive trees,” he adds.

Slovenia has an annual olive oil pro­duc­tion of around 400 tons, accord­ing to the International Olive Council, far from neigh­bor­ing Croatia, with 4,000 tons, Italy, with more than 185,000 and Spain with 1.6 mil­lion.

The view from the mid­dle of the grove offers a panorama of a quin­tes­sen­tial Slovenian Istrian land­scape: a deep val­ley sur­rounded by hills where forests, vines and olive groves coex­ist.

It’s as if every hill had to be crowned by its own vil­lage. Smarje, on the left side, Grintovec, on the right, and Padna, with its sub­tle sky­line and Venetian-like bell tower, on the other side of the dale.

With a pro­duc­tion of around 1,500 liters per year, the qual­ity of Morgan’s organic oil is widely acknowl­edged. In 2018, the Morgans won a Gold Award for their organic medium blend at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

He sells 80 per­cent of the oil locally, export­ing the rest, mainly to Germany, Austria and Italy.

Franc Morgan

We’ve had cus­tomers for 20 years and I’m happy it stays this way. I really value the trust of our clients,” he says.

Buyers from places like Hong Kong have shown inter­est in our oil and have asked me to send them a ship­ping con­tainer. But all our annual pro­duc­tion fits in a sin­gle con­tainer,” he jokes.

On some ter­races there are three rows of trees, oth­ers are just 4 meters wide and have room enough for just one line of trees. Some of them are recently planted. Others are around 30 years old.

Seventy per­cent of Morgan’s olive trees are Istrian Belica, or Istrian White, the most com­mon cul­ti­var in this part of the Adriatic coast. The rest of the farm con­sists of a mix of Leccino, Maurino and Buga vari­eties.

Being in the extreme north strip of the Adriatic, frost is a con­stant threat for olive trees in this region, Morgan says, as he points to some trees affected by last year’s low tem­per­a­tures, which reached ‑8°C below zero (17.6°F).

We have 1,000 trees, but I think that’s enough for the moment,” he tells OOT.

His is a fam­ily busi­ness run by him­self, his wife and their two daugh­ters. But, as often hap­pens among Slovenian olive oil pro­duc­ers, all have other jobs apart from the oil pro­duc­tion.
Every day, when we chat at home we talk about oil, olives… That’s how we live. This is our life and I am happy that it is this way,” Morgan says.

When you’ve spent 25 or 30 years with the olive trees you are like an olive tree inside. I know all my trees by heart. Where there is one and the other… They absorb you but with a pos­i­tive energy. When I come here to the olive grove, I don’t feel bad any­more.”


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