Loddon Valley Nuggetty Creek Olives
Published on 09 November 2015
GRAEME and Meryl Watters were living and working in Melbourne when they started looking for land in the country.
“We bought a vacant block of about 120 acres of creek flats at Laanecoorie in 1998 and thought of growing either grapes or olives,” Mr Watters said.
“In the end, we opted for a trial plot of about 20 olive trees, watering them religiously every weekend.”
That tentative beginning was the genesis of Nuggetty Creek Olives, a multi-faceted high-quality food business which now sells product online around Australia and even into China.
“Those few trees grew and grew and we decided in 2004 to plant more,” Mr Watters said.
“We then bought a package of 3,000 trees and put them all in by hand with the enthusiastic help of our two children.
“We’d probably have 15,000 to 16,000 trees now and all have been planted by the family, the main varieties being Frantoio, Pendolino and Barnea.
“Our son, Jamie, is in charge of the olive operation now, while our daughter, Kim, pitches in when time comes to shake the trees or process the olive oil.
“We basically do the processing within four to six hours of harvesting to maximise flavour and nutritional value.
“That processing is done in a 27m x 12m facility which can handle two tonnes of olives every hour, with oil stored in a separate 20m x 9m building.
“Pretty much from the start, we’ve won silver and bronze awards each year in fine food shows in Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.”
The business also specialises in producing hand-made Belgian chocolates, biscuits, balsamic vinegar and infused olive oils in flavours such as lemon, wild lime, blood orange, bush pepper, truffle, chilli and garlic.
“Meryl is a chocolatier, trained to a high level internationally,” Mr Watters said.
“Her creations include chocolate echidnas, turtles, bears and frogs, ganache-filled delicacies, bars, honeycomb, Rocky Road and nuggets.
“We’ve also moved into gift hampers, jams and sauces – all hand-made on the farm – and planted 2,000 cherry trees and a number of fig trees.
“Next, we’re looking to build a farm shop which will allow visitors to see the chocolates being made, sit down for a coffee and watch the packing.
“If the shop idea gets up, that could create 10 to 15 new jobs.
“We want to build the business into a thriving tourist destination. We’re very passionate about the farm and about quality food.
“Meryl could easily run chocolatier courses, we could take visitors on tours of the property or host sausage-making classes.
“We’re looking to retire from our professional lives in Melbourne sometime in the next 18 months to come to the farm full-time.”
Mr Watters is a partner in a city accountancy practice, while Mrs Watters works in advertising.
“Sales of our products are through the website – we don’t supply retail stores at all,” he said.
“Nuggetty Creek Olives is a 20-year dream of ours that is finally coming to fruition. It’s growing by the week.
“As far as we’re concerned, the sky’s the limit.”