Šibenik Catholic School Olive Oil Wins Gold in New York!

Šibenik Catholic School Olive Oil Wins Gold in New York!

May 7, 2022 - Šibenik Catholic school olive oil returned to Croatia with a gold medal at the NYIOOC world competition in New York!

While some may be surprised by this news, the Šibenik Catholic school olive oil connoisseurs believe it was expected, writes Š

In the competition of oil mills from Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, New Zealand, Japan, USA, Israel, Tunisia, China, France, Portugal, Cyprus, Lebanon and about twenty oil mills from Croatia, Šibenik was declared the best. Around 1,174 samples were submitted to the competition, which proves that the Šibenik Catholic school produces world-renowned oil.

This whole story is even better because the olive grove is cared for by children through the school cooperative "Školjka". Of course, all with the mentorship of more experienced school employees, primarily the school janitor, Marko Rupić, who spends most of his time in the olive grove, and Šime Petrović, head of accounting, who is in charge of coordinating harvesting and processing.

"There are currently 311 students in the school," says the school principal, sister Mandica Starčević, who revealed the olive grove was once part of the military barracks.

"The whole school is included in the cooperative. In addition to the cooperative, we have several extracurricular activities that allow students to develop their knowledge according to their interests. We also have home economics, robotics, art group and many others. The pandemic has slowed us down a bit in all this, but now we are slowly returning to the usual rhythm," claims the director.

The first trees in the school olive grove were planted almost 30 years ago by soldiers, as there used to be a barracks where the school is located. Then, with the construction of a new part of the school about 13 years ago, the school staff planted new trees, which, it turned out, gave an excellent yield and even better oil.

"Then we planted new plantations, about 110 trees, and now there are about 170 in the olive grove. This year we had a slightly lower yield, but there were years when we knew how to harvest up to three tons of olives. So although the yield was not at the expected level, the oil was of the highest quality," says Šime Petrović, a school employee who, along with the caretaker, Marko, is most responsible for the olive grove.

If it weren't for Ante Duvnjak from the St. John oil mill in Vodice, Petrović claims, they wouldn't have sent their oil to a competition in New York.

"I must emphasize this: he took the initiative, and we agreed to participate in the competition at his urging. He sent samples of olive oil from all over Croatia to the competition, not just ours. The other thing I have to point out is our elementary students. Their involvement and enthusiasm around the olive groves is wonderful; that is the essence of everything," adds Petrović.

The olive grove is dominated by only one variety, oblica. However, the school janitor Marko Rupić said that he is extremely grateful for this. 

"As far as cultivation is concerned, these are olives of exclusively organic origin. We do not use any chemicals and preparations, which nature does. I think that is partly why our oil is so high quality," says Rupić.

"I spend a lot of time in the olive grove because it is a large area. In addition to olives, I also take care of regular mowing, which requires time and effort. We bought a few fruit seedlings, and we may also plan to plant a small vineyard; we will see; one or two more pairs of hands would not be out of the question," Rupić said.

Parasites and irrigation in the olive grove are two problems this hard-working janitor faces. The first problem will be solved by planting lavender, which is known to repel parasites from trees, while the second has yet to find a solution. 

"Parasites and diseases have never been as they are now. We do not use any chemicals; although it might be easier to maintain and protect olives with them, we will not give up on organic farming. All the water that olives get is from what I water or rainwater, and irrigation would be essential to us," concludes Rupić.

The school also does not sell their olive oil and uses it primarily for their own needs or pass it on to those who need it. For example, a group of students arrived from Norway, France and Spain and recently received a bottle as a souvenir. 

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