Spotlight on Sitia Roots: A Story of Preserving Tradition with Innovation
At Gaea, all of our products are made with highest quality olives from specific groves in Greece, 100% traceable from the source. We work with growers who have been picking and pressing olive oil for generations.
Sitia, in Eastern Crete, is like heaven for olive oil. The Cretans have been making olive for more than 4,000 years, since the Minoan era. Their environment, with its plentiful sunshine, gentle mountains and rocky yet rich soil, is made for it. Olive trees thrive here. “Crete is the largest olive oil producing region in Greece, the third largest olive oil producing country in the world,” says David Neuman, CEO of Gaea North America.
Not long ago, though, the 9000 family farmers of the Sitia Cooperative were in serious trouble. The Coop had been a successful venture for many generations. Together, the farmers owned 36 mills, the means of turning their ripe olives into extra-virgin olive oil. But as the Greek economy suffered, so did their operation. In the last several years, they were struggling to stay afloat. “They were operating on a shoestring,” says Neuman, and the Sitia Co-op ended up in bankruptcy court in 2011. They lacked the financial means to continue their once thriving enterprise.