Towards the end of September, with the early harvest, the efforts of the villagers, who press olives in traditional stone mills, set out to be guests at our table. Depending on the region and the temperature, preferably as of October, pickled or flooded black olives appear on the horizon. When there is no green fruit left on the tree and the oil rate in the fruit is at the highest level, then it is time to harvest olives for oil.
When lush braids begin to cover the hills with raindrops, I realize that the summer season has melted away and my favorite time of the year has begun.
Just as I am sitting on a rock in the North Aegean with a yellow and blue background, I watch the harvest season, dressed in its wisest clothes, while listening to the silence of the morning with great attention, accompanied by Birhan Keskin’s famous poem The Olive Tree.
“Since you came, you stopped by me
Sit down, this is my scorched body.
How old am I? I didn’t count
Or I forgot, forgive me.
This: a void: inside of me
Also called a life mark.
It’s like, a lot of butterfly dust in it.
I stopped a lot, I never went, on this mountain top
Sometimes I cried to the wind
Sometimes I counted the bottom of my trouble to the desolate.
Don’t look at an old, stagnant olive formation”
Autumn is the harvest season for these fertile lands covered by olive trees for 12 thousand years. BC in the archives of the British Museum. Actors, owners, ages have changed since the olive harvest depicted on an amphora from 520 B.C., but nothing has changed since Homer, in the smell of olives that permeates one’s nose from one’s nose to his heart.
Turkey is the fifth in the world in olive production; It is also fourth in olive exports.
We take life so seriously, as if we are right, that we plant olives and harvest them when the time comes.
Sabahattin Ali’s stories in Kuyucaklı Yusuf appear vividly in front of my eyes: “men’s long poles stroking small-leaved branches quickly, and women with their black lithe skirts tucked into their waists, bent twice, picking olives from the ground with their fingers hardened by the cold”…
First of all, with the early harvest towards the end of September, the efforts of the villagers, who press olives in traditional stone mills, set out to be guests at our table. In the next period, pickled or flooded black olives appear on the horizon, preferably from October, depending on the region and the temperature. This is a marathon of about a hundred days, in which a worker collects an average of 60 kilos of olives.
When there is no green fruit left on the tree and the oil rate in the fruit is at the highest level, then it is time to harvest olives for oil. At this stage, olive cultivation shows all its ingenuity, from the collection of olives that have fallen to the ground, to hand-picking from the tree, to mechanical harvesting.
Dr. Dilşen Oktay Ertem is an olive producer. He is also the President of the Gömeç Olive Producers Association and the Deputy Chairman of the Edremit Bay Olive and Olive Oil Producers Federation.
According to the information I got from him; The number of olive trees in the Edremit, Havran, Burhaniye, Gömeç and Ayvalık districts of Balıkesir, known as Edremit Bay, is close to 10 million.
This figure corresponds to 6 percent of all olive trees in Turkey.
Olive is also called “green gold”. Or, as in Hüsnü Arkan’s lines, “this spring will be a bride again; The words of love are whispered to the tree branches, saying, “A green veil on your shoulder, crazy, crazy olive”… Regardless of what it says, in literature or in songs, olive is one of the biggest and most genuine natural resources of a country, despite all the technological leaps.
Experts agree that the olive harvest in the period covering the years 2022-2023 will be fruitful in general, thanks to the rainy and cold climate conditions of the North Aegean – despite the somewhat negative impact of the rainfall in the past weeks.
The roasting of olive groves in Europe as a result of high temperatures this year may cause disruptions in global olive oil supply and decrease in yield, especially in Spain and Greece. It is said that the most severe drought in the last 1200 years has been experienced in the Iberian peninsula. Olive production is among the biggest losers of this process in many regions from Italy’s Tuscany region to Spain.
As a result of the drought that swept Europe this summer, which was also reflected in the August 2022 Report of the European Union Drought Observatory, agricultural products were greatly damaged; transportation costs in logistics began to increase rapidly. The report says nearly half of the EU is threatened by drought; drought seriously threatens about half of the agricultural lands. This situation, on the other hand, points to a great potential in terms of exporting countries in agriculture and food, close to Europe, such as Turkey.
Therefore, in this case, it is possible for the demand for olives to shift to Turkey. Considering that 500 thousand families make a living in this sector, the ancient fruit will be the lifeblood of thousands of households.
However, there are warnings about the increase in the “olive fly population”, which is an important problem especially in the Edremit region, and its possible effects on quality.
Dr. Ertem said, “The olive fly has been a problem in this region for many years, but there is a solution for this, as there is a solution for everything in nature. The natural insect repellant of the olive fly is bats, but due to dam and mining works, the natural habitats of these creatures have been destroyed, so we pay the price for disrupting the balance of nature with product quality.
The number of olive trees that reached the best level of olive production in the last decade for the second time in the last ten years from the North Aegean to the Marmara, from the South Aegean to Manisa, the Mediterranean and the Southeast, generating an income of 2.5-3 billion dollars in a year. Turkey, which ranks second in the world after Spain in terms of total olive oil exports, is around 50 thousand tons per year.
On the other hand, the debate continues at full speed over whether the olive tree above the ground is more valuable than the mine underground.
The plan to destroy olive cultivation, which has been on the agenda for twenty years, and the Regulation on the Amendment of the Mining Regulation, known as the death warrant of olive cultivation, brought our hearts to our mouths this year. A strong civil objection had arisen as far as Denizli.
With the change in the regulation published in the Official Gazette dated March 1, 2022, mining activities were allowed to be carried out in areas registered as “olive groves” in the land registry, on the grounds of mining activities carried out to meet the electricity need.
The struggle against this dominant regulation, which is against the law, continues and olive producers, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and lawyers are asked to cancel it on its merits.
However, says Dr. Ertem said, “If the authorities ignore the strategic importance of olive and all activities related to it, and change the law, it will be Turkey’s death warrant.”
Therefore, the persecution of the olive tree, a kind of “golden egg-laying hen”, which is crowned in other countries of the Mediterranean basin, does not end in our lands.
Currently, 78 percent of the agricultural lands in the Kaz Mountains Region, which includes the Edremit Gulf, are licensed for mining activities. One of the areas where the license density draws attention is the Burhaniye district located in the Edremit Gulf.
“What this means is that if any mining company somehow gets a license to operate, the entire ecosystem (olive, other plants, living things and humans) will be destroyed, with no claims on the producers. Not to mention the soil, water and air pollution,” Dr. Ertem.
Intensive migration to the region and related unplanned construction is also a problem that has recently affected the olive growing activities of Edremit Bay.
“Since a large part of the region is olive groves, unfortunately, olive groves have been opened for development and look like a concrete pile and even a cemetery in my opinion,” says Dr. Ertem.
It is as if humankind has taken on the hypocrisy of sacrificing the olive trees in the region, extracting minerals instead, erecting buildings, and then turning around and advising “consume a lot of olive oil for your health”…
What a terrible situation that thousands of olive trees were sacrificed to constructions in Edremit Bay in 25 years.
Dr. According to Ertem, it is possible to transform the potential of olive trees in the region into added value with more “creative” projects. In other words, he recommends taking steps in line with the rhythm of the era, which goes beyond just bottling the olives and putting them on the market by labeling them.
In this respect, in a period when the demand for olives and olive oil is increasing all over the world, investments can be made in olive and olive oil tourism, which is called “oleo-tourism”, as in producing countries such as Italy, Spain, Tunisia, Croatia; incentives in this regard may come to the fore.
In other words, we have a huge potential that cannot be limited to producers who buy a small olive grove in the Edremit region, produce oil of average quality and send it as a gift to friends and family in order to realize their “retirement dream”.
But here, too, priorities come into play: short-term economic interests or long-term strategic projects to save the end of the month?
Or are we ready to try alternative tourism varieties that include many details such as accommodation with local architecture integrated into olive groves, opening your eyes to a panorama adorned with vast olive trees, having breakfast with tomatoes and thorny cucumbers picked from the garden?
Will we be wielding our magic wands so that the villages on the olive routes will develop and beautify every season of the year?
“We, too, can use the monumental trees in our country more effectively for tourism, but in Turkey such cultural heritage is wasted for short-term interests,” says Dr. Ertem.
Edremit Bay Olive and Olive Oil Producers Federation; It has brought together the producer associations of 6 districts (Edremit, Havran, Burhaniye, Gömeç, Ayvalık, Küçükkuyu Olive Producer Associations) under a single roof and carries out various studies to reduce costs and to make their voices heard by the authorities by acting together.
Zeynep Kursat Alumur
In my meeting with Zeynep Kürşat-Alumur, an agricultural engineer, olive farmer and olive and olive oil producer from Ayvalık, she shares very interesting information from the Ayvalık region:
“The trees in our pasture are all trees grafted from wild olive trees, which are wild olive trees. This concrete information we have indicates that they were grown from the seed, and this in itself is very valuable and admirable. It is very likely that the birds carried the olive pits to these lands where they would find their ideal living conditions. The method of producing seedlings from the seed, which is very difficult to realize by one’s own efforts, creates an olive forest from millions of seeds over centuries as a result of nature’s own perfect functioning. Indeed, one must only have great respect and admiration for him.”
Therefore, as Kürşat-Alumur says, the olive forests that cover Ayvalık are actually a miracle of nature that emerged after the process of growing from seed to sapling and from sapling to tree for centuries.
Centuries ago, the people who settled down in Ayvalık and started farming, grafted these insane olive trees in order to get more productive products from these trees. Therefore, there is a biodiversity that cannot be destroyed by sudden changes in the olive growing law, and there is a labor that goes back centuries. This requires a much stronger shield of legal protection, far from opening up the region to commercial activities.
Kürşat-Alumur mentions that they have been feeling the effects of climate change in the region for a while. However, it goes without saying that the crop will be good this year.
“However, the fruits need a lot of rain during the growing period when they are lubricated. Unfortunately, our pasture could not benefit from the rain that fell in the region a few weeks ago. The rainfall that our pasture may receive until the end of September will significantly affect our yield and will be decisive.”
There is another source of excitement for the people of the Ayvalık region during this harvest period.
While the name of Ayvalık, which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2017 under the title of “industrial heritage”, has been announced not only with TV series, famous Ayvalık toast, taverns or restored old Greek houses, but also with internationally prestigious film, theater and music festivals, will present a new contribution to the industrial heritage of the region.
Ayvalık Olive Oil Industry Museum will open its doors to tourists and olive lovers by Kürşat Zeytincilik in the next autumn-winter period.
“The olive oil factories that our great-grandfather and his family established and processed their olives when they came to Ayvalık from Crete in 1923 have been renovated and become operational as a result of years of devoted renovation work. This workshop of our family will be exhibited in the closed area of our museum. Our museum is a special museum that aims to be the carrier of the industrial heritage, which aims to introduce and preserve the natural and cultural heritage tradition of Ayvalık olives, to protect it, to promote it and to carry it to the future, to give the olive tree that has been standing since the first day of life, to give it the value it deserves today. a museum. The Ayvalık Olive Oil Industry Museum will feature a wide range of collections and content from the physiology and history of the olive tree to its production, storage methods and Ayvalık local history,” explains Kürşat-Alumur.
He is so devotedly devoted to the olive trees inherited from his family in the Ayvalık region that he even knows the locations of the trees that his great grandfather planted personally, and the moment comes, with all his childishness and love of nature, he slyly hugs the trunk of the century-old tree and makes wishes.
Ayvalık lover writer-translator Ahmet Yorulmaz divides people into two in his book “From Ayvalık, From Cunda”: “Those who see Ayvalık and become attached to it, and those who cannot give up on it… And those who have not yet seen Ayvalık, but one day they must travel to Ayvalık.” those who will fall…” Well, how would you describe yourself?