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Karsten & Angela Wendland

Karsten and Angela Wendland’s farm, Wendland Olives, is in Midland Park in the Southern Darling Downs. They have 7 year old olive trees – 19,000 of them over 165 acres. Although not certified organic, Karsten is meticulous about his farming practices. It is worth going into some detail about them because Wendland Olives demonstrate some of the complexity that larger scale farmers contend with, and that we must contend with as Food Connect Subscribers, if we are to support an evolving, regional farming culture. For the Wendland olive trees to prosper, the region’s old sandy loam soils required an initial laying of composted manure, crushed dust and lime. Since then, Karsten has used small amounts of urea, only when the trees have really needed a boost. He doesn’t use any nitrates (which destroy soil microorganisms) and only sprays with organic pesticides (white oil or natrasoap) if necessary. Olive trees require high levels of calcium, a need that he mostly meets with applications of dolomite or gypsum. Tree crops require fungal soil, and because Australia’s soils are predominately bacterial, he brews a fungal-predominant compost tea and irrigates with this, along with worm juice. With big rains and their resulting compaction effects on the soil, the olive trees sometimes develop phytophera, which is a pathogen causing root rot. Again, Karsten uses an organic treatment in the form of a friendly fungus- trichoderma. The most significant non-organic treatment he uses is for effective weed control. As yet, he has not found an adequate alternative to Roundup. He is, extremely careful and sparing in its application: ensuring no drift into his olives; and desuckering and deskirting the olives trees before spraying to ensure no part of the trees is be touched. Part of the hope Food Connect has is that by offering support to careful farmers, such as Karsten Wendland, the problems of their large scale enterprises can be shared by the Food Connect community, so that we can all invest in ever-better, ever-more sustainable solutions, with them. So far, we have not been able to find an organic olive oil farmer within our region. This fact, along with the reliance we have on olive oil in our diet, and Karsten’s dedication to quality and best practice, makes Wendland Olives a welcome newcomer to our slowly increasing extras list. Karsten’s olive oil is made from frantoio and pendolino olives. Both are very small and high in oil content. The trees are machine harvested and cold pressed. The resulting oil is gentle, sweet, fruity and clean in flavour, with a slightly peppery aftertaste. Karsten says these subtle qualities tend to surprise people who are used to supermarket olive oils (regardless of their ‘extra virgin’ status). All Karsten’s table olives, both green and black manzanillos and green sevillanos, are picked ripe and entirely by hand. This is unusual. Most olives are picked rock hard green so as to limit the damage machine harvesting causes. These immature olives require caustic soda to soften them, which leaves them floury in texture and with little juiciness. Their flavour generally needs boosting with strong marinades. Karsten prefers to send his olives to us simply brined because their flavour and texture is so exquisite. The choice between sevillanos and manzanillos, black and green, is a matter of personal taste. Each has their specific, subtle differences in flavour and texture.

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