When I was first introduced to the infamous olive oil squeeze bottle and wrote about it, I received an email from a nice fellow named Brendon McHugh. We had a few pleasant email communications and I asked him to send me information on his olive farm. Let’s take a trip now to Tulbagh, South Africa where Brendon and Sue McHugh own and run Buck’s Ridge Olive Estate and Wild Olive Farm.
Sue and Brendon McHugh are former multi-continent oil and gas industry IT professionals turned olive oil producers. They farm on 130 hectares (+-300 acres) in the Tulbagh valley. The Tulbagh valley is situated about an hour’s drive from Cape Town and has a perfect Mediterranean-like climate. The McHugh’s take advantage of the climate and grow both olives and wine grapes.
They have 12 hectares (30 acres) of olive groves on their own farm, another 11 hectares (26 acres) on their neighbor’s farm, and this year planted another 6 hectares (14 acres). The cultivars Brendon and Sue grow for their olive oil are Mission, Frantoio, Leccino, and Coratina. The new plantings this year are Kalamatas for their new table olive venture.
The McHughs have their own milling equipment and use the Italian Oliomio 700 and 350 presses (extraction units) which gives a total throughput of 1050Kg per hour. This past season, they produced around 30000 liters. To make a real go of their venture in tough economic times they even imported bottling, capping and labelling machines. I think Sue and Brendon mean business.
Their olive oil is a blend of the cultivars they grow although they do tend to favor the Tuscan Frantoio and Leccino cultivars which gives the oil a lovely, herbaceous greenness, pepperiness, and freshness. The oil is then slightly toned-down for local consumers with the addition of the delicate and somewhat milder Mission oil.
Currently the olive oil produced at Wild Olive Farm is sold at local markets, but they do export small volumes of olive oil to markets in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium. They have yet to crack into the US and I know they would like to do so.
Best of luck to Brendon and Sue McHugh.
May the sun shine through your branches.