LAHARUM's Mount Zero Olives is one of two Wimmera producers listed as finalists in the 2013 ABC Delicious Magazine produce awards. Now in their eighth year, the awards encourage, showcase and reward Australian producers, build awareness of culinary regions and recognise seasonal food produced with integrity.Mail-Times journalist SARAH SCULLY speaks with Mt Zero Olives' Richard Seymour and grower Tania Walter about making the cut among a record 3110 entries.
MOUNT Zero Olives' Richard Seymour is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky in 2013.
"We were nominated last year for our pink salt and I think we've been nominated in the past for our olive oil, so we're hoping we can come away with a win this time," he said.
In 2013 the business has been recognised for its biodynamic french green lentils, one of nine products vying for the artisan 'From the Earth' title.
"It's something we've been working on since inception and we're one of the first to market french green lentils from the Wimmera," Mr Seymour said.
Mount Zero Olives produces biodynamic products from organic farming methods.
"Basically it's about looking after the health of the soil rather than the health of the plant," he said.
"We believe it results in a better-flavoured product and it's a much more sustainable way of farming."
Mt Zero Olives' award-winning product range includes olives, oils, vinegars, gourmet condiments, pulses and grains.
The business also teams with a small group of carefully-selected growers from the Grampians, Wimmera and Tasmania who produce products under the Mount Zero brand.
Among these are Steve and Tania Walter, who produce the french green lentils on their Marnoo farm.
Mrs Walter said she and her husband were thrilled to have their product recognised by Delicious Magazine.
The Walters harvested their first french green lentil crop in 2011.
"We started to supply Mt Zero Olives in 2012 when we got our cleaning facility up and running," Mrs Walter said.
"We think our product is special because we are Demeter-certified biodynamic farmers. This is an enhanced form of organic farming which uses no artificial fertilisers or chemicals. Instead we use a biological activator compost called 500 to enliven plants and soil."
Delicious Magazine editor Danielle Oppermann said Australians were interested in where their food came from.
She said the awards supported and recognised the hardworking producers who formed such an important part of the nation's thriving food industry.
Mt Zero Olives is one of the Wimmera's most highly-regarded producers.
The business has come a long way in the past 20 years.
When Richard's parents Neil and Jane bought the Laharum olive tree farm in 1993 it was completely neglected.
But the pair managed to breathe new life into the property and turn it into the successful business it is today.
Neil and Jane continue to run the olive grove, farm-gate shop and cafe while Richard handles the packaging, distribution and marketing arms from Melbourne.
Despite a long list of accolades for its products, particularly its olive oils, Mr Seymour said it was always surprising to be nominated for an award.
"It's a bit of an honour," he said.
"It's great for us to get any type of recognition. It works in two ways first people will buy our product and second, it gives us industry recognition and shows that we're up there among the best products in the country."
Willaura's Greenvale Farm was also named as a finalist.
Both its heritage breed genuine free-range pork and its pasture matured dry aged jumbuck will contest the 'From the Farm' category.
The winners will be announced in the August issue of Delicious Magazine on July 17.
Mount Zero Olives is also running a Facebook competition for the best soup recipe.