The water is critical: “I couldn’t grow the trees without irrigation,” Mrs Paterson said.
“Rainfall here is unreliable. The average year-round total is good, but you can never rely on it to rain when you need it.”
There are now 3500 olive trees planted in a series of groves on the foothills and river flats, the elder planted in 1998 and the youngsters seven years ago.
Varieties of Frantoio, Correggiola and Leccino are cross-pollinated with Pendelino. The trees are all bi-annual bearing.
She grows using organic principles and uses a seaweed foliar fertiliser monthly and applies compost regularly to the trees, which are pruned into a vase shape.
Harvest is early May, using two mechanical shakers and electric rakes.
From the start, Mrs Paterson’s plans included processing olive oil on site, within four hours of picking to the completed pressing, to retain the extra-virgin status.
She has used two presses – the second one, to press 2.5 tonne an hour, was brought from Italy and installed by its designer and engineer during a period of 10 days.
“It’s my pride and joy,” she said, admitting she is solely responsible for pressing the olives.
Her annual olive oil harvest is 8000-10,000 litres or 48-60t of a golden, peppery olive oil, with a balance of fruit and bitterness.
“From the start, I entered the oil in the Australian Olive Association’s awards and we’ve never been out of the medals since 2004,” Mrs Paterson said.