Having successfully imported our little bottles of olive oil into the UK, the time had come to sell it.
Last time we lived in the UK, I used to travel around the North of England selling my home made pesto, tapenade, various antipasti and, of course, extra virgin olive oil at Farmers’ Markets, country house sales, food fairs, and above all else, Christmas Sales Events.
So it seemed an obvious move to re-enter this market, resurrecting my much loved brand name, Well Oiled!
This had several advantages: firstly, it meant that applying to the local council to reopen as food premises was incredibly straight forward. Secondly, when applying for exhibitor space at Christmas Sales, organisers had a record of me, and the ten year absence from the market was easily explained. But most importantly of all, we still owned the rights to the website, and had all the branding in place to simply pop back into the Christmas events as though we’d never been away.
Plus, Well Oiled is such a fun name!
Ten years ago, it’s fair to say that Yorkshire Folk were a pretty tough crowd when it came to all things olive oil. Suffice it to say that on one particularly memorable occasion, my lovingly hand made pesto was dismissed as “not as good as my mint sauce, love” by one taster.
So, we weren’t really quite sure how well received our little bottles of olive oil would be.
So, we sold half of our harvest in Italy before packing the car up with what was left. and then I sold half of what we had left en-route to Yorkshire (it was a very long journey!).
We’d also brought the last of our 2020 oil home with us, and so while Scott packaged up and mailed the orders that I had taken on the long journey North, I set about making pesto in the kitchen at Rowan House.
Before we knew it, it was Friday night, the eve of our first sale.
The weather was horrific, as Storm Arwen was battering the whole region.
But we were snug and warm in the kitchen by the Aga, as we attached gingham tops and jute bows to our gorgeous little jars of home made pesto.
It was just like old times, but unlike old times, we were quite anxious that the rather large poplar trees in our front garden were going to be blown over in the night, so we decided against loading the car up on Friday evening.
In bed that night, our anxiety grew and grew, as the storm gathered strength. We lost power at around midnight, and lay in bed worrying about what to do with several hundred pots of pesto that would be unsold, as the sale that we were attending was in a marquee only ten minutes’ drive from where we were trying to sleep.
Incredibly, even though plenty of other trees did fall that night, the trees in our garden did not. Even more incredibly, the marquee at Bedale Hall was still standing, so we loaded up the car by torch light, and navigated our way around many a fallen tree to set up our first stall in ten years!
To our utter amazement, the marquee was warm and dry, and the good people of Bedale turned out in their droves, and to our even more utter amazement, it turned out that they rather liked our single estate, organic extra virgin olive oil!
How things had changed in ten years.
No need to explain that pesto was made with basil, not mint. No need to explain that good olive oil is not just for frying.
Lots of interest in the difference in taste between the 2020 and 2021 harvests, and soooo much interest in what on earth had possessed us to buy an abandoned olive grove in the middle of Italy!
We had the best fun, and did a roaring trade in stocking fillers for foodies, gift bags for grand children, and special treats for pre-Christmas gatherings.
We had so much fun that we barely had time to think about the storm that was still raging outside, until we got home, where we unpacked the car by torch light.
The following couple of days without electricity were actually quite cozy and relaxing, and as our village friends were in the same boat, we escaped with them to places with power to eat. Town Friends who fed us on Sunday even offered us a warm shower, and sent us home with solar torches and a gas stove so that we could fend for ourselves. However, you can only imagine our delight when power was finally restored to the village.
On to Harrogate, and to The Great Yorkshire Christmas Fair: a play on words, as this four day Christmas gift fair was being held at the event hall of The Great Yorkshire Show.
This fair was The Main Event: four metres of exhibitor space, four days of sales to be made, 20,000 eager visitors expected to attend, and …
Omicron arrived in the UK with a bang.
Incredibly, shoppers still came to the fair. And oh boy, did they love our little bottles of olive oil!
We developed a little mini tasting strategy: describing how the olives are harvested by hand early in the season while they are still a little under-ripe, then milled a mile from our farm within 24 hours of harvest. We then showed our customers two bottles of oil – one from 2020, and one from 2021, and let them work out which was which. A taste of 2020 oil, and a huge smile. Then a taste of 2021, and a huge grin, a eureka moment, and the delighted customer would tell US how fresh the oil tasted!
No need to sell the oil, it sold itself!
We really had the best four days at Harrogate, and I truly hope that somebody who bought our oil last autumn will be reading this, because I want to say this:
We are so grateful to everybody who has encouraged us on our journey from the couple of daft wazzocks who bought an abandoned olive farm, to actual olive farmers, and vendors of hand picked, organic olive oil.
Most of all, to those of you who actually liked our oil enough to buy it,
It really is true that when you buy from a small business, the owner does a little happy dance.