Family, quality and sustainability are all core values behind award winning Yellingbo Gold Olive Oil. We sit down with director Jeremy Meltzer, who shares how their commitment to quality and integrity continues to grow.
The Yellingbo olive grove, located in the Yarra Valley, 60 km east of Melbourne’s CBD has been in the family for about 25 years, explains Australian social entrepreneur, Jeremy Meltzer, whose father Howard spontaneously bought the property when Jeremy was just a child. “Then 11 years ago,” Jeremy explains, “my father decided to stop working as a lawyer, and become what he’d always dreamt of — a farmer. Dad realised no one in the area was growing olives so it could be a good idea to become the first. During that period, many locals in the region were making wine, so dad went ahead and planted 3000 olive trees.”
Olive trees can take up to seven years before bearing their first harvest, and by that stage Jeremy was living in the United States and looking to start a business as the first harvest grew. At the time, olive oil had not been exported commercially from Australia to the USA, and Jeremy saw great potential to start something that would soon accelerate. “Yellingbo in some ways pioneered Australian olive oil in the USA, like wine makers in the region did probably 20 or 30 years ago,” Jeremy explains.
Following positive media coverage in the USA and an appearance cooking with the olive oil on The Martha Stewart Show, Jeremy was inundated with Australian chefs eager to taste this local oil. “The feedback was very positive,” Jeremy describes. “As we soon discovered, there was a great local market of passionate, talented chefs in Victoria who wanted to buy local produce. So in the past several years, our focus has now shifted back home and we supply olive oil to local chefs in premium establishments around Melbourne.”
Made with Love
Some of Yellingbo’s olives are still handpicked, and all are pressed in small batches using an Italian olive press on the grove. “It’s really been an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. So we press in small batches, with the focus on picking, cold pressing and packaging in the cask, the environmentally friendly cardboard box. This is fantastic because no air gets in at any point, and as olive oil oxidises very quickly when exposed to air, this maintains the freshness in a sustainable way.”
Giving Back to the Community
Yellingbo’s collaborative approach and willingness to educate and support local establishments has also cemented its value within the community. “The more we nourish our customers, the more all boats ride well,” says Jeremy. “The Grand Hyatt Melbourne culinary team regularly visit the grove and have the benefit of being able to meet the producers and see the origins of the products they work with. This inspires passion for what is being served. I think all these reasons really contribute to being able to tell a compelling story whilst also supporting the community. Some of the best food in the world is being produced locally, Australian produce is clean and green. As a community of food producers, we have some of the best techniques and cleanest food of anywhere in the world.”
“We aim to be environmentally sustainable in all we do, which is really how it started. Although the business is small, we’re focused on delivering a high quality product with an emphasis on sustainability, and an ethos of giving back. Online, we donate $1 from every sale to women and girl’s development projects.”
The essence of Yellingbo Gold is also evident in the integrity of their story. “There are so many producers who care, and you can taste that in the final product; whether it is wine, cheese or olive oil. It’s a legacy. There are many families in Australia who have that character — they band together and do whatever it takes to ensure their final product is very authentic. The opportunity to give back to the community is something we are really proud of and will continue to do.”