Ever had olive oil on toast? It's how a lot of people in Spain enjoy their breakfast or mid-morning snack: a honkin' piece of bread with olive oil poured all over it. Sometimes there's crushed tomato, ham, or salt & pepper added. Me, I like it plain. I used to be a bread & butter lover – now, olive oil is my friend.
So when my school announced an oppportunity to tour the biggest olive oil cooperative in the world, guess who ran to the sign-up sheet? This tour was an exercise for some C1 level students to practice their English – a big plus for me, since I'm still having trouble understanding the tough Andalucian accent.
The location of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Cooperative is just outside of Villacarrillo proper - lucky for me, as the previous location was on my street, the next block over from my apartment. With the millions of kilos of olives processed every year, I can't imagine how hellish the traffic and noise would have been had the new factory not been built.
According to my info sheet, there are about 14,000 hectares of land, with more than 1.5 million olive trees. The modern, clean buildings were completed in 2011. It was amazing to see how spotless and huge everything was. Plus, the extraction process is contained to minimize contamination of the water table and surrounding land. They even put aside the leaves and pits, to sell as biomass fuel.
The plant is much appreciated by the coop members, because the previous location, located in the center of my community, was choked with tractors during previous harvests. Sometimes it was so busy, farmers waited in line until 2 a.m.!
A pleasant occurrence in the tour was the heady smell of olive oil. It hung in the air and made me smile everytime I noticed it. All in all, it was a very informative and fun field trip!