Where Dreams Come True

The first dream that began 5 years ago has finally been realized. Early harvest high phenolic EVOO is now being produced and exported from Greece and Cyprus. It is being delivered to health conscious consumers around the world.

ARISTOIL“Reinforcement of Mediterranean olive oil sector competitiveness through development and application of innovative production and quality control methodologies related to olive oil health protecting properties”

The Aristoil Project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Aristoleo Ltd and its sponsors.

The second dream was to bring together health conscious consumers to meet the olive growers that produce this amazing ancient quality EVOO. This dream has a life of its own, because it’s not about marketing or sales. It’s about connecting with people from different cultures over a common interest or passion. This article describes how the second dream was magically realized. I say magically because there is something about high phenolic EVOO that draws people together. They arrive from different walks of life searching for more than an excellent olive oil. They are searching for a connection to something new but familiar. A simpler way of life. High phenolic EVOO is an ambassador of goodwill. This is why the ancient Greeks carried high phenolic EVOO and olive tree seedlings wherever they went. This is how they set up colonies and trading posts across the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. The future of olive oil resides in our past.

Aristoleo Conference: “The Future of Olive Oil” Field Trip to Strakka Organic Farm

The Magic

It happened on April 28 2018, a few days following the conclusion of Aristoleo 3rd annual conference The Future of Olive Oil and High Phenolic Aristoleo Awards presentation in Nicosia. I received the most heartfelt proof that I was on the right path despite all the obstacles and difficulties forging this path over the past five years. Τhe emergence of the new category of olive oil “high phenolic EVOO” is not a dream anymore it is a reality.

At The Future of Olive Oil conference, I spoke about the potential and importance of developing the agrο-tourism sector for olive growers. With tourism in Greece and Cyprus at all time high it was an obvious next step for introducing these exceptional olive oils to the world.

Taking shelter from the sun under the pecan tree during the Strakka organic farm tour

The Conferences

Aristoleo’s first conference and Awards was named “Hellenic Miracle” and began 3 years ago at the ancient city of Olympia in 2016. In 2017 “Beyond Organic Beyond Extra Virgin” and now 2018 “The Future of Olive Oil” has taken place at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. This year we were honoured to have HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan attend the Future of Olive Oil conference. HRH delivered a powerful speech about the importance of stewardship of the earth. HRH described the prototype regenerative agriculture methods used to bring the desert back to life at the Royal Botanic Gardens she founded in 2005. It has now become a learning center and a model for regenerative agriculture.

Antonis Papantoniou of Strakka receiving Gold award from HRH Basma bint Ali of Jordan

HRH Basma bint Ali visited Strakka Farm where an olive tree was dedicated to HRH in honor of her visit. Another tree was dedicated to the Greek olive oil researchers Dr. Prokopios Magiatis and Dr. Eleni Melliou. Strakka is a multiple Aristoleo Award winner for their organic high phenolic EVOO and Olives.

The love and interest of the Leventis family, the owners of Strakka estate, the natural environment and biodiversity, and generally those involved in the estate, has prompted them to switch to organic farming since 1998. To deal with the Organic agriculture requires love and respect for the natural environment, but more needs to be done if we take into account the adversities and the difficulties of organic farming, since the production of high quality organic products requires sacrifices both in time and in money. The Strakka farm was created during the Venetian domination in Cyprus about 500 years ago, when it appears on the map of Abraham Ortelius of 1573. The farm was acquired by the Leventis family in 1942 and since then, the farm has a continuous history of olive oil production.

Recently I attended the SIAL exhibition in Paris. One of the olive oils that were on display was Strakka Organic. The Leventis family have some of their business roots in Nigeria where they owned supermarkets and were very loved by the Nigerian people for their generosity. So when a woman came over and I saw her name tag that she was from Nigeria, I pointed out the Strakka bottle and told her this is the family estate farm of the Leventis family. “They are the only ones who did not abandon us. They stayed with us during the hard times. Bless them.” She spoke with such reverence it became clear why this specific visit from France by the Engasser family was responded to with such kindness and sensitivity. This is the main reason I am so drawn to the olive tree. It has a deep cultural tradition of bringing people together in peace and harmony between many cultures and races.

Strakka Where Dreams Come True

A few days after the conference I was informed a tour bus filled with farmers from France wanted to visit Strakka Farm. I had no idea where they found out about Strakka Farm. I was eager to find out about the first tour bus arriving so quickly after my speech on the potential of agro-tourism and the dedication of the two olive trees.

Antonis Papantoniou of Strakka Organic Farm presents Olive Tree to Dr. Eleni Melliou and Dr. Prokopios Magiatis

I offered to assist Antonis Papantoniou the general manager of Strakka Estate in preparing and hosting this first group.

Strakka table is set for the guests

The Tour

Antonis gave them a tour of the olive grove and laid out a luncheon feast in the lovely estate gardens made from Strakka produced ingredients. I asked the tour operator, who it was that organized this trip and she pointed me to Hervé Engasser and he told me the story of how they ended up there

Antonis Papantoniou leads a group of French farmers on a tour of Strakka

René’s Dream

Hervé’s father, René Engasser’s dream was to visit Cyprus and Strakka ever since he had discovered it on the internet over a year ago. He had been organizing groups of local French farmers from his native Alsace Region to visit countries all across Europe for the last 30 years as cultural and information exchanges. He was particularly keen to introduce them to organic methods of farming. René’s dream was to visit Cyprus and bring the group to Strakka and was really looking forward to the trip. But tragedy struck. René fell off his bike and broke his hip and suddenly passed away just days before the scheduled visit to Cyprus. His wife, Monique, and son, Hervé though raw with their loss, honoured René’s dream to visit Strakka. So there they were – mother and son bravely carrying on the wishes of René by not canceling the tour.

The Olive Tree Dedication

The next step seemed obvious to all of us involved with Strakka and moved by this commitment and that was to dedicate a tree to René Engasser.  Antonis guided Monique and René to choose a young tree between those of HRH Basma bint Ali and Prokopios Magiatis and Eleni Melliou. This was the 3rd tree dedicated /adopted and it was perfect as it was to René Engasser who brought the first tour to Strakka through his family.

Antonis Papaantoniou, Athan Gananidis, HRH Princess Basma bint Ali

This type of farmer is the reason I do what I do – their loyalty to organic sustainable farming methods and hunger for knowledge is astounding. With the assistance of research scientists and government support we can once again have hope for our survival on this little blue planet. René may not have made it to Strakka but he will forever be present and known in the olive tree dedicated to him and he will be in good company surrounded with like-minded and value driven individual

Hervé expressed the desire to return with his mother, sister and brother in September when we would officially dedicate the olive tree and place the plaque. On Sept 16 2018 they arrived.

Antoins Papantoniou, Athan Gadanidis, Herve, Anne Catherine, Thomas and Monique Engasser family arrived to Strakka to dedicate the olive tree to Rene.

Engasser Family Arrives

Herve, his mother Monique, his sister Ann Catherine his brother Thomas. Although the owner George Leventis wanted to be there to meet them, he was not able to make it to Cyprus due to business obligations abroad. Mr. Leventis was so moved by the story he made sure they spent a night at the Strakka Estate and were treated like royalty. In fact, Ann Catherine the daughter remarked as we were being served breakfast by the wonderful Strakka Estate staff: “I could get used to this, this is how I always wanted to live to be served breakfast like a queen” I turned to her and said: “Perhaps this is why your father brought you here to experience this as well.” I only realized what I said after I heard myself say it. We then sat silently digesting that thought.


I felt engulfed in the depth of feeling for the loss of René to his family and their deep appreciation for the dedication of the olive tree in René’s honor. Gratitude for the decision I made years ago to be part of the change in the olive oil “business”. Bringing people together of different cultures was at the heart and essence of the olive tree. These moments of connection and deep empathy is the best gift I could ever receive. But honey and wine are also happily accepted 🙂 – Hervé brought us honey he makes himself and wine from his region.

Rene Engasser

In gratitude for the gifts of the earth and the people who nurture and share them.

Athan Gadanidis