an ancient olive tree in an olive grove, with a man nearby

The amazing price of 510 euros for a half liter of Greek olive oil captured plenty of attention, but the full story has deeper roots in ancient Greek olive trees. Some of these ancient trees are being preserved and promoted by the Eptastiktos cooperative that donated that precious oil to a Dutch charity auction, and also helps its Cretan community.

The 510 euro bottle of olive oil made from the fruit of ancient trees was donated to an auction to help cover the maintenance costs of the Foundation Historic Garden Aalsmeer in the Netherlands. Eptastiktos contributed this bottle to honor Paul Cooper of the Netherlands. According to Nick Kampouris, “Cooper is considered to be an integral figure in the development of the agricultural economy of eastern Crete, introducing innovative cultivation techniques” for olive trees.

Presented in wooden gift boxes, yet usually more affordable than at the auction, the limited edition half liter collectible bottles of olive oil generally help finance Eptastiktos’s “ancient olive tree project.” This focuses on “creating paths and cultural routes” that join ancient olive trees and olive groves with other local attractions, benefitting the local economy by encouraging ecotourism and sustainable rural management, according to cooperative member Giorgos Tomadakis.

Tomadakis explained to Greek Liquid Gold that Eptastiktos produces and promotes high quality local products that bring a fair price to the producer in order to “reveal, highlight, and protect the local heritage of our region.” They offer such items as extra virgin olive oil, carob syrup, co-milled aromatic olive oil condiments, ointments, soaps, and chutneys of tomato, pepper, and eggplant.

an ancient olive tree, with a man pruning it

Profits from such products help them work toward their goal: “the total protection and enhancement of the over-thousand-years-old olive trees in Crete” through sustainable management, “so that they won't be cut for lumber or other farming.” They have recorded 220 productive olive trees that are more than 1,000 years old, with an average age of 1,850 years and one tree more than 3,000 years old! The trees are owned by 60 local proprietors.

Taking its name from the ancient Greek word for the ladybug with seven spots that helps protect crops from pests, Eptastiktos pays homage to Crete’s ancient olive trees with a poetic appreciation on their website:

Coming from the depths of time.
Under their shade, Minoans were hosted.
Their trunks were touched by many conquerors. Their roots were
watered, with blood, sweat and tears, until today they stand
irrefutable and living witnesses of our history.

Seeking to help them stand tall for future generations, as their website explains, Eptastiktos is recording data about hundreds of these ancient trees, measuring, photographing, and mapping them, talking with their owners, and “creating a cultural network” for the trees’ protection. The plan is to link them with archaeological sites, country churches, and impressive natural areas.

Without state aid, Eptastiktos is assisted by the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Crete and the municipalities in the regional unit of Lasithi in eastern Crete. The cooperative is ambitious: they plan to create an online information database, develop environmental education programs and other courses, set up a tree adoption program, and sponsor cultural events and competitions.

Eptastiktos also cooperates with solidarity associations for Greece. The Normandy solidarity association in France has been an especially active partner. Eptastiktos supplies them with organic olive oil and other Cretan products, and the association uses the profits from their sale to purchase medicines and equipment for hospitals and clinics in Greece.

A delegation from the Normandy solidarity association participated in the annual World Olive Day harvest of olives from ancient trees in eastern Crete in late November. The association also donated 5,000 euros’ worth of equipment to the Ierapetra hospital at that time.

On their website, Eptastiktos urges compassion for the trees, and consideration for the next generation: “Let's make … them a gift to our children and grandchildren; let's give them the chance to give love and be loved.”
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Thanks to Eptastiktos for the photos. You can find more photos and information on their website and on Facebook.

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