Indie Oxford Interview: Ogglio
This week we catch up with Giuseppe – owner and founder of Ogglio – the delicious Olive Oil that’s been hailed as ‘Liquid Gold’! Giuseppe tells us all about about olive growing in Sicily, how Ogglio came to life and, of course, all his favourite Oxford indies!
Tell me about how Ogglio started
In 2017 I inherited a small olive grove in Sicily, planted by my great-grandfather more than a century ago. The olive oil we produce was always just for us and the family, but that year thanks to a bumper harvest we had so much surplus that we didn’t know what to do with it. So I asked around to neighbours, friends and colleagues at work, and to my surprise I received a lot of interest, way more than I was hoping for! With this encouragement, my wife and I designed a logo for a bottle, created a website, and shipped the first pallet to Oxford.
Tell me about yourself and your journey to Oxford
I moved to Oxford in 2017, to work for the University. I still do, that’s my real job. Olive oil is a passion I’ve always had and Ogglio is really just a hobby, as long as I break even I’m happy. Before Oxford, I had lived in India, France, Australia and of course Italy. I am originally from Sicily, but I went to uni in Bologna. I studied Literature and I am now working in copyright licensing. I love Oxford, it’s great city: I live in Botley and I can feel a real sense of neighbourhood.
What is life like for farmers in Sicily?
Like anywhere else, farming in Sicily can be very hard work, with little economic reward. Until I was a student, I spent my Summers (and many weekends) working in the farm, driving tractors, harvesting grapes, picking olives… It can be fun, but nowadays it’s become increasingly difficult to earn a living off it. Some people still manage and you can find a lot of amazing produce in season, like aubergines, tomatoes, artichokes, olives… Most people still work the land, but as a pastime no longer as their main source of income.
How important is the olive grove to you and your family?
The olive grove is a member of the family! All the trees in it are! It’s a live creature and needs attentions, but it’s not very demanding and always very generous at harvest time. It’s always been with us since my great-grandfather planted it more than a century ago, and I can’t imagine life without it. It’s been traditionally handed down from father to son and I expect to do the same, hopefully my son will take an interest in it when he’s older. I’d love to see that happen.
Tell me about your childhood memories of the grove
I remember climbing those ancient trees, the sunlight glimmering through the leaves, with my grandfather on a wooden ladder teaching me how to pick the olives by hand, one by one, to make sure that only the very best would end up in the basket. The harvest in particular was always a magic moment, when all the trees in the grove appeared to my innocent eyes like solemn giants, primeval creatures still mysteriously alive: that said, they weren’t intimidating at all, but felt like friends, happy that someone had finally come for their annual playdate.
How much oil does your grove make?
It depends on the season, every year is different, but let’s say about 300 litres a year. It’s an organic grove; we don’t use pesticides, and do not even irrigate it, thus the yield is small but the quality incredibly good. I am only selling the surplus, as I keep most of it for myself and my family. Lately I have had a lot of requests, so I have had to seek the help of like-minded local farmers, people I have known all of my life and can trust. The result has been great, and has helped Ogglio become more of a socially focused enterprise.
Tell me about your Kickstarter campaign and why you set it up
The olive harvest happens only once a year and the olive oil produced can then be stored for quite a while: so it makes sense to arrange a pre-sale, in order to ensure people can enjoy fresh extra virgin olive oil, as it is very different from what you buy in supermarkets. The olive oil will be delivered in time for Christmas, so it could be the perfect present for those people in your life who are discerned foodies. The campaign runs until the 3rd of November, for more info: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ogglio/2019-olive-oil-harvest
Where can people sample your olive oil?
People can sample it at the Indie Oxford Market Place in the Covered Market, of course! Another place is the Oxford Cheese Company (also in the Covered Market) and Hayfield Deli in Jericho. I also do some markets now and then: for instance, I will be at the Octoberfest on Little Clarendon Street on the 6th of October.
Lastly, what are your favourite indies in Oxford?
I absolutely love the indie scene in Oxford, too many to mention! But if I have to stick to my top 5 faves, I enjoy eating at The Perch, going for pizza at Mamma Mia, buying my veggies from Cultivate, shopping for clothes a at Burrows & Hare and then have them washed by OxWash!