The past few months saw the annual olive harvesting spree. The endeavour starts at slow pace only to quickly escalate into a frenzy of overburdened farmers who generally call upon the strength of the whole family to get the job done. Most employ every possible hand at their disposal which means that many will concentrate the harvesting during the weekends, and some will take a holiday leave from their main occupation to help in the olive orchard, not to mention that to preserve the quality of the oil everyone wants their olives to be processed the same day of the harvesting. Good weather is also imperative which means that each rainy day postpones the workload and increases the stress.
During this frenetic period a huge amount of leaves is produced, our research identified that most of the farmers use handheld electric or pneumatic rakes to shake the olives off the tree and collect them on top of huge nets laid on the ground beneath the olive canopy.
This method of harvesting is the one that produces by far the greatest amount of leaves — even up to 4 times the amount of leaves and twigs if compared to hand picking and tree shaking tractors. Conditions permitting, the farmers sort out the twigs during the transfer of the olives from the nets to the crates and most farmers use in field deleafers that blow the leaves away, by doing so the total weight is reduced and so is the amount of money the farmer pays to the oil mill for the processing. Therefore, the oil mills must deal with a weight ratio of leaves to olives that can vary significantly.