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Harvest proves Wembley’s century old olive trees still have life

26 June 2020

History in the making of olive oil.

Heritage-listed olive trees at MercyCare’s Wembley Intergenerational Campus have been returned to their original century-old roots with olives harvested during June.

MercyCare staff and volunteers harvested 87 kilograms of olives thanks to the generous knowledge and assistance of volunteers.

The olive trees were planted in the 1850s by Benedictine Monks who occupied the site through to the 1860s.

The monks had harvested olives, which they pressed in The Stables nearby onsite to make olive oil.

The Sisters of Mercy, who managed the site following the Monks up until MercyCare was formed, continued the tradition for many years.

Community members who live nearby, some who volunteered last week, recall sneakily picking olives from these same trees as children in the 1960s.

Since then, the century old trees which are listed on the State Register of Heritage Places, have served as a connection to the site’s history.

A couple of dozen of them are dotted between MercyCare’s Wembley Residential Aged Care Home and Early Learning Centre.

Among the volunteers who were on hand to assist in the process of collecting olives were volunteers who usually take part in the harvesting of olives at the New Norcia Benedictine Monastery.

They leant their know-how and the Monastery’s equipment to help get the job done. A generous benefactor paid for the hire of some additional equipment.

The sight of a cherry picker and movement beneath the trees was a source of interest to several Mercy Village residents whose apartments overlook the trees, with a number coming to find out what all the activity was about.

Specialised air rakes were used to remove olives from the trees, with the cherry picker helping to provide access to the highest branches.

The olives fell onto shade cloth laid out underneath the trees where staff and volunteers swept them into piles and collected them with dustpans and brushes.

From there the piles of olives were lightly sieved to remove leaves.

The harvest was organised by MercyCare Service Designer Joni Sercombe with help from Liz Fahey in Property Services. They described it as a bit of an “experiment”.

Joni took the olives to be pressed into oil which she hopes can be utilised as part of a social good venture.

“We have some ideas up our sleeve about what we might do to deepen the connection to the MercyCare story and our impact,” Joni said.

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