Health backgrounds inspired Jayne Bentivoglio and her husband, Peter, to launch Rylstone Olive Press extra virgin olive oil in 1998.
“My husband is a doctor and neurosurgeon and I was a nurse, so we saw too many stokes, too many brain haemorrhages, too much high cholesterol. We wanted to help reduce the world’s cholesterol and we thought the best way to do that was to grow olives and produce some of Australia’s best olive oil.”
Jayne said a diet including good extra virgin olive oil can lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) by bumping up ‘good’ cholesterol. “There are so many wonderful health benefits that come from extra virgin olive oil.”
Peter’s family arrived in Sydney from Torino in Italy, in 1898. “So it was virtually 100 years to the month that we planted our trees at Rylstone. As Peter’s family came from Italy, we were always very pro the Mediterranean diet.”
The couple chose Rylstone because their land was 750 metres above sea level. “It’s got a bit of that Tuscan landscape and lovely granite soil, coarse sand loam and a few clay ribbons where we don’t plant. We have a nice winter rainfall and we do get some thunderous showers through the summertime, as well as our share of drought.”
As well as Spanish and Italian olive varieties, Jayne and Peter planted Israeli variety Barnea, because their property in the Mudgee region has the same latitude as Israel. “It’s a wonderful olive and it blends really well with the other oils,” Jayne said.
Jayne is responsible for olive production, processing, and blending of the extra virgin olive oils, as well as the marketing at Rylstone. “Like lots of other olive growers I have many caps, but the important thing I believe in is balance and harmony in the extra virgin olive oil. This way, whichever Rylstone product customers want to use – whether it be a mother cooking for the family at home or a restaurant chef – they are happy with how it pairs with the dishes they’re creating. We don’t want it to take away from anything they’re planning to do and they have the added knowledge that they are contributing to a health-giving meal.”
Jayne and Peter’s Rylstone Olive Press extra virgin olive oil blends include the Murray Darling blend, the Murrumbidgee blend, the Cudgegong and the Crooked River blend, named after Jayne’s family’s winery. The couple’s signature blend, the Rylstone Cudgegong, has consistently taken out domestic and international awards since 2004.
As well as producing their own olive oil on site, Jayne and Peter are happy to see other growers making use of Rylstone Olive Press. “A number of small growers from the Central and Southern Tablelands of New South Wales come to us to make their olive oil,” she said.
As far as managing the land, Jayne said she would like to experiment with the use of drones for integrated pest management and tree management.
“They’re using drones with grapes and in a lot of other farming areas now. Monitoring is vital with pest and disease management, and I see an advantage with using drones.”
Jayne also described Australia’s climate as a great ongoing project. “Every year we’re confronted by new issues in olive production and the processing of extra virgin olive oil.”
On their land, Jayne and Peter haven’t planted their trees intensively. “I believe there’s only a certain amount of moisture in the soil and rain from the sky to go around. There are also only so many nutrients you can put on the trees without changing the growth of the olive and disturbing the percentage of oil yield and the high quality of the oil.”
Jayne said the mining sector had made it harder to find employees for the agricultural industry. “When the mining people leave, the fellows from the mines are used to being paid extraordinarily well and they don’t want to come back to $23 or $25 an hour.”
The cost of freight in Australia was a further challenge. “Freight kills us in Australia. We ship from Rylstone to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and the costs are just outrageous compared to other countries.”
Jayne said the olive industry would benefit from a consumer education campaign to drive home the ‘buy local’ message. “We really need people to buy local and support the Australian farmers first. Consumers should be buying home-grown and processed Australian extra virgin olive oils before buying any imported olive oils.”