Love Brought Us Here

The story of Two Fields. How falling in love lead to becoming unlikely apprentices of a beautiful craft and a regenerative future.

 

 

Located in the far eastern corner of Crete is the small rural village of Zakros. A place defined by a craft that has been passed down from generation to generation. A community producing some of the world’s finest olive oil. A village with a different rhythm of life. One connected to the seasons and nature. 

Yet, like many small communities and makers, it faces its own challenges. There is so much to learn from Zakros. There is knowledge here. A real craft. And in a strange turn of events, that craft has been passed on to us. 


Our Journey

While our family visited Zakros on holiday in 2013, Harry, my brother, met Eleni. He fell in love and soon moved there permanently. He found work within the olive fields. His connection to the land grew and he was learning the village ways.

At the same time, I was studying design, specialising in sustainability and feeling frustrated. I was seeing a meaningless side to design, addicted to mass production. Zakros represented something different and when I had the chance, I was there.

Later, while Harry was learning a life more connected to nature through the old ways, I saw creativity being used to tackle the environmental crisis in new ways. Harry in Zakros and myself in Creative Direction at adidas.

And though we were living in different worlds, my brother and I were heading in the same direction. A love for doing things with meaning and connected to nature.


The Craft & The Challenge

Despite the passing of time, the craft here remains true. The undulating land requires a very hands on approach. The trees are tended by fiercely dedicated local farmers and families. The olives are grown, picked and pressed within the village, just as their parents and grandparents did before them.

As my time in Zakros transitioned from holiday to field work, I realised, how deeply the olive, the culture and the people are connected. Only after my first harvest would I know that you can never truly understand this place until you’ve worked in the fields.

As we began to understand Zakros in more depth, we realised even in the far corner of Crete, there were pressures from a system we didn’t believe in. Very real pressures placed on people who rely on working with the land to survive. One, being a demand for yield over all else and chemicals pushed as a solution. 

This is a challenge for many farmers. Yet, we had never experienced it in such a raw way. We saw the tension between the craft and the system. We saw the beauty and the challenge.


Becoming Unlikely Apprentices

Things seemed to slowly fall into place. It would take time but soon what seemed like a distant idea became reality. We became the proud owners of our own 200 olive trees. A small but mighty two fields.

So two brothers, one a frustrated design student and the other who had fallen in love and moved to Crete became olive farmers. Neither of us with any farming background. Driven by a belief that we could reconnect this craft to nature and redefine how it is valued. And so, we became unlikely apprentices.

Antoni and Jiannis, seasoned olive oil farmers, continue to guide us immensely. As does our desire to create something rooted in nature. 

This pushed us beyond the world of organic farming into a regenerative approach. Focusing on giving back to our land and soil. From experimenting with cultivating beneficial microbes to exploring ideas around locking more carbon in our soil and much more.  As you can imagine, this approach would sometimes lead to a strange look or questions from more experienced hands.

On one side, the steady and patient hand of a honed farmer to guide us and on the other a deep desire to experiment and learn from nature. In some ways, perhaps our inexperience has freed us to explore more.


Business For Good

Without a way to support ourselves and sell our olive oil, we may be reconnecting our fields to nature, but for how long and to what end? So we set out to create a small business focused on doing things a different way. The antithesis of the system we continued to clash with. 

As you’d expect, we had little business experience. Our first main focus was creating our brand and bringing the oil to the U.K. Beyond that, there wasn’t much of a plan. And so, batch 1 became our test.

A year later batch 1 sold out. 

That sentence in itself is a whole story of ups and downs and of many lessons learned.  But mainly of us discovering and connecting to a community in the U.K. who share our values. 

We’ve seen craft valued and process cared about in both Zakros and the U.K. And we realised how dependent these two worlds are on each other. That people seeking a different way need the alternative that small businesses offer. And a business going against the grain needs customers who care.

Small rural Zakros and the U.K. were more connected than we ever knew.


Learning From Two Worlds

After a successful first batch, we feel in our own small way, we can contribute to change. Still apprentices in both business and olive oil with much to learn. 

In one way or another, the system we live in has drifted from craft and nature. But in the U.K. we discovered a community championing it. And in Zakros, a way of life defined by it.

From long walks in the forest to regenerative farming. From olive oil production to a first time maker. In whatever wonky form it takes, we believe that craft & design, nature & great food and people & good business will define the future. That worlds old and new have so much to learn from each other. And we will push beyond the challenges we are caught in today.

Underpinning it all is the idea to experiment. Without testing and tinkering, we would know little more than the rigid system in place. It may not be in the olive fields for you, but wherever it is, pushing to the edges is important. It’s a way we all move forward together.

Who knew the olive would teach us so much.

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