Perched high on a hill, Casa Margherita overlooks the Umbrian valley in Central Italy. The views are picturesque, overlooking nearby towns Trevi and Montefalco. It was here in 2007 that Adrian Henry and Rachel Williams fell in love with the land. As if out of a scene from Under the Tuscan Sun, the couple purchased the property outright, along with its abandoned olive grove of 500 trees with little thought to how they might access water or electricity. “We were living and working in London and were ready for a bit of a challenge,” says Henry. “We wanted to do something different.”
Three years and a restored home later, the olive grove began to blossom. To “give a little flavour to life in Italy”, and inspired by his grandparents who were tomato farmers, Henry conceived Casa Margherita’s Adopt an Olive Tree program, which includes lovers of Italy and all things olive in the farming process by way of adopting a single tree. “Olive trees live for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, so you are not in any true sense an owner of a grove, but a custodian for a stage in the life of an olive tree,” Henry explains. As such, the pair keeps their troupe of custodians updated on their tree.
There are three types of adoption to choose from—each sponsoring a different stage of growth: Young & Virile (early production years, producing a bounty of fruit), Full Flush (fully mature, producing optimum quality fruit), and Elder Statesman (a tree’s formative years—awkward to pick but worth the effort). Each stage is a nod to the trees’ unique oil-bearing qualities. Regardless of type, adopters receive a tin of olive oil (made from the grove) and a copy of Casa Margherita’s olive oil handbook. Involvement continues throughout the seasons. As summer approaches, the fruit flourishes, and Casa Margherita’s cookbook, Cuoco, filled with Umbrian recipes and written and designed by the duo themselves, is sent out. Come harvest season, the olives are in their ripened state. Each is hand-picked, cleaned, crushed, spun, and finally filtered (without chemicals, colouring, or blending). At this time adopters receive a two-litre case of Casa Margherita’s extra virgin olive oil to enjoy from their very own olive tree; the fruits of assisted labour.