19 Apr 2019

Fruit, flowers and fragrances: life on an organic orchard

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 19 April 2019

Olia Alpatskaya grew up in Russia's Ural Mountains and trained as a mining engineer but now lives with her partner Greg Reid on an organic olive orchard in the sunny eastern Bay of Plenty.

On a clear day, you can see White Island from Olia and Greg's hillside property, and it sometimes looks like it's swimming towards you, Olia says.

On the property, Olia and Greg grow olives, figs and heritage fruits, as well as herbs and plants from which Olia makes natural fragrances, skincare and cosmetics for her company Elura.

When she was a child, Olia lived with her grandfather and would collect flowers and herbs from the forest to make remedies for bruises and scratches.

After arriving in New Zealand, she continued treating her children's minor injuries with natural medicine such as olive leaf extract.

Olia now makes kawakawa balm and totara extract – which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, she says – and is learning about other traditional Māori remedies.

She is also growing the plant stevia – best known as a sugar alternative – which South Americans use in hair products.

Greg had been living on the orchard for a while growing olives when he met Olia, he says.

"When I first came here I bought a spade and just went over the property … dug in different areas and found we have this lovely volcanic ash. In the hollows, it was moist enough to grow figs and on the hills, it was dry enough to grow olives."

Greg and Olia produce around 200 litres of olive oil every year.