Helen Meehan - Olivo olives and life in Martinborough

Boutique, Artisan and Gorgeous

If you ask Helen Meehan to describe the ethic of Olivo olive oil you will most likely catch the phrase "boutique, artisan and gorgeous". This has been the underlying philosophy of Olivo since Helen & husband John took the helm in 2003. It was a lifestyle change for the couple who saw Olivo, fell in love with the property & decided to buy it. " I was approaching a significant birthday," Helen tells us "so wanted something different to focus on". Having previously worked in IT and telecommunications tackling a boutique olive grove was quite a different experience. "It was something of a baptism by fire! We took over the grove three weeks before harvesting....but you soon learn" smiles Helen - they have just completed their 13th harvest on the grove.

The grove is beautiful, scenic, serene.......we keep going back just for the clean living atmosphere, like heaven on earth. Views of the Tararua ranges, rambling garden, mature olive trees (magnificent!) and spectacular garden sculptures (by Sean Crawford of Carterton). But we also visit regularly for Helen's company she's an awesome person to spend time with.......and the fabulous Olivo oils are a definite draw card as well.

Olive leaf inspired sculpture by Sean Crawford

Helen's passion

From the outset of this venture, Helen was quite clear the grove needed to be a viable business rather than a hobby, to achieve this there needed to be over 1,000 trees so the grove was expanded.
Helen spent the first 5 years at Olivo focusing on the grove & building the business, then rebuilt the house & garden, we are inspired by her never ending energy - This lady is super cool, motivated & always gracious.
Helen is an easy person to be around, she never stops in her work on the grove and in promoting Olivo while maintaining a smile with a cheery personality. She also manages to find time for community work, Chairperson of the Wharekaka Rest Home Auxillary. Helen also sits on the Wharekaka Community Trust Board with special responsibilities for marketing.

"I have always believed that you should give back to the community that you live in and this is my way of doing so" she tells us. "Wharekaka is a superb facility and one that sits in the heart of the community. The Auxiliary fund raise for extras for the residents, organise the community to serve afternoon teas on a weekly basis (to give the residents a change of faces)and organise monthly outings – the Auxiliary are a wonderful bunch of women to do this."

"Scots College is where my son went to school and I am currently sitting on their Centenary committee – the Centenary is next year."

Infused Olive Oils in Helen's kitchen - "the perfect spot for infusing"

Olivo Olive Grove tasting room

A pioneer in the Olive Oil industry, Helen was one of the first to develop the popular infused oils so readily available today. Porcini, lemon, vanilla, smoked chilli, cumin, orange.....the varieties are as extensive as the recipes are versatile. "Enhancing good oil is the key", Helen tells us. She is out most weekends doing tastings, spreading the word on this good oil right around New Zealand. Moore Wilsons, Kirks, Eastbourne Deli, "Word of Mouth Catering" in Thorndon, Farrow Fresh in Auckland, Martinborough Wine Merchants and P&K Martinborough.

While Helen is out promoting the oils, John mans the tasting room on the grove at Olivo - also running Olive Grove tours in summertime. The focus is on quality, also strong relationships, Helen describes how many repeat customers she meets, she wants to keep it that way -"boutique, artisan & gorgeous". There are also occasional cooking classes as well as collaborations with chefs Nick Arnold of Cafe Medici fame & Ruth Pretty, one of Wellington's top caterers. No opportunity is missed & while Helen makes this all seem so easy, we sense she is a precision planner - with the August Perfect Puddings event during Wellington on a Plate one example. "You have to plan ahead to be part of the festival" Helen describes the preparation having started for this back in January, "one of our busiest months on the grove...but it's crucial to plan ahead."

Red Stag sculpture in the grove by Sean Crawford

Helen on Martinborough

Helen is passionate about Martinborough. "It's a wonderful community – small, diverse, international with the wine and yet very grounded in New Zealand. It is vibrant and interesting and anything that Olivo can do to support this continuing – we will do"

Huge thanks to Helen for the interview, always a pleasure to chat to such a motivating person,and we love finding out more about the people behind Martinborough businesses. Stay tuned for more Martinborough stories!

For more on Olivo see the website here: Olivo
Trish Higginson & Karina Hailwood Creative Directors
Martinborough Village
"Let us show you the magic of our town"

Copyright MV 2015
enquiries to karina@martinborough-village.co.nz


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