“Beyond Organic, Beyond Extra Virgin”
When I first met Eleni and Panagiotis I was struck by their enthusiasm. They do not have a long family history of owning olive trees, but are driven by a new-found passion for producing the highest quality of olive oil. Eleni and Panagiotis leased an abandoned olive grove from the city which was primarily made up of the rare Lianolia variety olive trees not usually found outside of Corfu. They revived it and even managed to get it certified organic and went beyond simply organic and implemented regenerative agriculture methods. This is why it is called “Beyond Organic, Beyond Extra Virgin”. Over the last 4 years they have succeeded in producing an award winning high phenolic EVOO that is being recognized for its high phenolic content and its superb taste.
I visited their olive grove during the past harvest season and witnessed for myself their secret for success: Love.
Interview with Eleni and Panagiotis of Elaeon “ἔλαιον” Bio-Green EVOO
- What is your family background? e.g. Where did you grow up? Hobbies? Interests?
ELENI: “was born in Czechoslovakia, a child of immigrants from the civil war in Greece with roots in Pontios, Thrace, and Smyrni. I grew up in the city of Opava. In 2003 I moved to Greece where I live with my husband Panagiotis and our daughter Nepheli – Dimitra in beautiful small city of Preveza. I like to dance, and athletics, such as volley, skiing, mountain climbing, and yoga.
I love working in the garden, I see it as a microcosm of nature and this is what we chose it fills us it relaxes us from the stress of ordinary life. I have two exceptional sons from my first marriage, Pavlo and Michali and a gorgeous grandchild Felix. I have to also mention my father Konstantinos Andronikidis my mother Eleni and brothers and sisters who influenced my love of nature.”
PANAGIOTIS: “I was born in Agios Efstratios a very small island in the middle of the Aegean – a place of exile – with only 100 locals. My father was a political prisoner during the military dictatorship in Greece and a local girl was my mother. We moved to Preveza when I was 2 years old because it was the birthplace of my father. I lived since then in the traditional and beautiful Preveza except for 6 years when I left to study in Romania. I also like dance, volley, skiing and mountain climbing in the untouched nature of the mountains.”
- What did you want to be when you were a child? What was your big dream?
ELENI: “I do not remember having any specific goal in mind. My childhood years were very happy in a large family. My father Konstantinos Andronikidis had 6 and my mother had 4 brothers. We got together often and it was very happy and lively times.”
PANAGIOTIS: “I dreamed of being a pilot so I could see the people from up high.”
- What did you end up doing?
ELENI: “I studied to be a nurse in the city of Opada. This was my profession for 15 years. I really enjoyed being a nurse very much. It was not simply a job it was a calling!”
PANAGIOTIS: “As children we were playing outside all the time and we were immersed in the pristine nature around Preveza, so I decided to study geology because it had to do with being outside in nature. I completed my studies with honors at the Geology University of Bucharest. I worked as a mechanical geologist for 26 years and an independent consultant.”
- How did you end up owning an olive grove?
“We began 15 years ago with our own small olive grove with 50 olive trees Lianolia variety. At the time we had no idea about olive grove management. In the beginning it was a hobby and an experiment in organic regenerative farming methods, just like in our garden. We imported ladybug larvae to control the aphids or green flies. Our neighbors looked at us like we were weird because we were not using chemical fertilizers or insecticides like they did. We saw there was a lack of organic olive oil, so we decided to expand into an abandoned olive grove with trees at least 400 years old.
Little by little we planted new olive trees and right now we have 700 olive trees from 1 to 400 years old.”
- How did you find out about high phenolic EVOO?
“We learned from another organic farmer about the competition for high phenolic EVOOs – “OLYMPIA AWARDS” at the HEALTH & NUTRITION CONFERENCE at the ancient city of Olympia in 2016. We were awarded the gold medal. That is where we met Dr Prokopios Magiatis and Athan Gadanidis and his team of associates. From that time we developed a relationship and trust which continues as we gain more knowledge about high phenolic EVOOs and their health benefits. Most importantly we developed a friendship.”
- What made you decide to get into this business you are in now?
“In the beginning we began as amateurs with only one type of bottle. As we saw the lack of organic olive oil we created other sizes and styles with the same organic high phenolic early harvest EVOO.”
- Do you have any partners?
“We do not have any partners. We work from the beginning as a family; myself, Panagiotis, and our daughter Nefeli. With care and devotion in all stages of taking care from the olive grove, to the final early harvest EVOO – “from the olive grove to the store”.”
- How do you see the future of your business?
“We believe and we have confidence the future belongs to organic farming, and agro-ecology which principles we implement as well.
People are beginning slowly, slowly and consciously to try to use organic products because they care about their health and the health of their family. These health conscious individuals are our customers, they do their research, they are sensitized to choosing the right products for themselves. They chose organic early harvest EVOO.”
- What can you say to others who are thinking of getting into the same business?
“We would say if you want to realize your dream, do it with love and with consciousness and you will succeed.”
- What is your favorite color and why?
ELENI: “My favorite color is green and blue. I like the color green because it reminds me of the liveliness of nature and the blue for the infinite sky and the seas.”
PANAGIOTIS: “I like all the colors but I prefer the color red because of Ferrari.”
- If you had to pick one person who is not a family member who would you say was most influential or inspirational?
“I would say that person would be HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan. We met her at the Aristoleo Awards 2018 last April in Cyprus and she made a big impression on me. She is a person to model and an inspiration. Gentle, simple, she is someone who really cares for her people, her country, for the ordinary people and humanity in general. Her speech was very interesting. A dynamic woman gifted and graceful.”
- What is the first thing you thought about when you woke up in the morning?
ELENI: “I have another day in this world”
Panagiotis: “Happy I am alive today!”
- How does your family feel about what you are doing? Do they approve?
“Our families are very proud of our accomplishments but sometimes they complain that we work too hard.”
- When you look 5 years down the road what do you see?
“I see two people without any experience or economic backing from others and with their only weapon their conscience, with a lot of work, the love and their devotion they managed to create an exceptional product. And as my grandmother Dimitra (91 years old) says, “persistence and patience are like two sisters – that walk hand in hand and one cannot be without the other”. “