Our oil finally arrived in the UK on Friday 15th April, but, wait I hear you say, reader, wasn’t your first market the next day?
Yes, dear reader, you’d be right. It made it, all the way from Villarosa, Enna province in Central Sicily, in one week. Paolo had brought forward the delivery date by 3 days going to fetch it from an Avonmouth (Bristol to yee foreigners) warehouse himself. Otherwise we’d have had nothing to sell.
Upstream in Malmesbury, we celebrated the arrival of our oil with pasta col ragù e vino rosso. Then I stayed up late, making a photo collage of pruning, planting, harvesting and milling. Just to emphasis that we really do make this green-gold, olive juice ourselves.
Sherston is a lovely Cotswold village (yes, ok South Cotswolds to you purists) with requisite stone cottages, wide high street, two pubs and a cosy village hall run by the locals. It was sunny but cold when we rocked up in both cars. The serious car for children and oil, the diddy one just in case, though I wish I could have driven the Fiat 500 straight into the hall and used it as my stall (thank you Ana for the pic). At least we could have contained the two under 5s. For four hours of market.
Yes, our two kids were in tow – well, cuteness sells! Jokes aside, they are an integral part of Alivu. When I asked our eldest if he was going to help mummy sell her oil he corrected me:
“Our oil, mummy”.
So how did it work out? A play in four acts:
- Hour 1: The kids sat patiently eating fresh bread (from Ollie’s stall next door) and olive oil (ours, yummy)
- Hour 2: Both ran around like screaming banchees, luckily it wasn’t too busy. Both played on their tablets. Yes, one each. Then Smallest got pinned to her pushchair and taken for a walk-nap. Outcome: a success
- Hour 3: Smallest sleeps whilst Smallish plays with the tablet
- Hour 4: Another loaf of bread with olive oil consumed and then papà takes two small ones to the play ground.
Critics review: 2 exhausted parents, 2 greasy kids, and 20 bottles of oil sold!
We were really impressed with the customers at Sherston market, we met some real olive oil fans who jumped at the chance of buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil direct from the producers. Others liked our story, and tried our oil from curiousity and politeness, but then bought it! We did have the charming Fae Planton pointing customers our way (thanks again Fae).
Emboldened by having avoided failure, we are now booking a few more markets in the comings weeks. It was very satisfying to sell our oil, not like parting with a beloved sketch or drawing or a crotched baby blanket squinted at of an evening. Instead, it was a feeling of quiet joy, knowing something that we enjoyed eating everyday for years, something we have dreamed of sharing with our friends, is now in someone’s kichen, hopefully being sloshed liberally on some pasta. Our oil.
It is nice to be farmers, albeit part-time, to feel the pleasure of knowing how to grow something that is being enjoyed by people we met, and with whom we shared our story: the lovely shoppers of Sherston market. Their feedback gave us confidence in our own product, but also confirmed our gut instinct about selling olive oil in the UK, through markets, face-to-face, restoring the relationship between grower and consumer.
Our next job is to deliver our oil to friends and family, dotted around the UK. Thank you for your patience friends, we’re coming!