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Campbell manages Manna Hill Estate, a small, family run, dry range olive grove in Mount Egerton near Ballarat, situated in the beautiful countryside of the Central Highlands in Victoria, Australia.
Established in 2001, Manna Hill Estate is the first commercial olive grove in the world to be Certified Regenerative by AGW. Consisting of 90 acres of gently undulating land in total, the north-facing slopes (25 acres) are planted out with around 2,500 olive trees. At 520 metres (1,700 feet) above sea level, the area experiences lower temperatures than elsewhere in Victoria, with cool, wet winters and (sometimes!) hot dry summers, making it ideal for olive production. Campbell has also established areas of bio-rich timber on the farm for shelter, carbon sequestration, enhanced environmental outcomes, and timber products, while carefully maintaining a significant portion of remnant native grasslands and natural bush habitats associated with a waterway and valley to protect the natural environment.
Today, they produce award-winning Certified Regenerative by AGW and certified organic extra-virgin olive oil, table olives, soaps and skin care balms made from olives grown and produced at Manna Hill Estate.
Campbell and Julie both originally came from rural communities, before moving to the city, where they subsequently became concerned about where their food came from and the increased use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides in farming, with genetically modified organisms following this trend. “I grew up on a small mixed farm with sheep, beef cattle, a dairy, pigs, and ancillary livestock including chooks (chickens) and ducks, along with the home vegetable patch and orchard,” says Campbell. “With the rise of corporate agriculture, with more interest in short-term share market returns than long term environmental and agricultural sustainability, the smaller family-run farms have largely disappeared from the Australian landscape, with the resultant loss of livestock genetic diversity, linkages between food associated with a particular farm and season and the consumers of that food.”
In time, Campbell and Julie developed a commitment to organic, sustainable, local food production. With the arrival of children, they hankered after a rural lifestyle where they could be more connected to their food and the environment, and decided that there had to be a better, more sustainable, community focused and enlightened approach to putting food on people’s plates—and put their vision into practice at Manna Hill Estate.
“We are passionate and committed to producing healthy organic food and skincare products here at Manna Hill Estate, using farming methods that care for our environment and ensure that our customers can purchase the best quality products locally,” says Campbell. Management practices are focused on improving soil health through applying biological methods, such as compost, biochar, creating biofertilisers, extensive mulching and cover cropping. Such practices also increase water-holding capacity of the soil and minimise evaporation, which will become increasingly important as climate change takes hold. “We also use recyclable materials to reduce landfill, wherever possible, and minimise our carbon footprint through the installation of of solar hot water and grid interactive solar panels in conjunction with the use of 100% ‘green power’,” Campbell adds. “It’s important for us to show customers that we really are serious about our ongoing commitment to caring for the environment we live in.”
And the result? “Our focus on regenerative agriculture techniques, rebuilding soil carbon, enhancing the soil biology, and nurturing the farm environment helped us to win consecutive Gold Medals in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Australian International Olive Awards competition,” says Campbell.
Campbell applied for AGW’s regenerative certification because he sees it as the next step in publicly demonstrating his commitment to farming in a way that heals the land. “We chose AGW as they have a global footprint and their farm certification offers a transparent, independent, third-party validation of our farming techniques and processes,” Campbell explains. “Our Certified Regenerative by AGW logo provides our customers with the comfort and assurance that we really are farming how we say we are. This trusted certification is a public statement of principles and practices that we are happy to be held to account to.”
“Although the concept of ‘regenerative’ is currently not well known by consumers in the Australian marketplace, we are anticipating that this will rapidly evolve and our hard-won certification and logos will become critical to our marketing success in the future,” Campbell adds. “As various organisations will no doubt jump onto the ‘regenerative bandwagon’, we hope AGW’s robust processes and independence will provide a more credible certification to the general public.”
Manna Hill Farm’s award-winning Certified Regenerative by AGW extra-virgin olive oil, table olives, soaps and skin care balms made from olives grown and produced at Manna Hill Estate are available to order online via the farm’s website, as well as numerous local independent shops. Check the AGW directory for details. For more information about Manna Hill Farm, visit mannahillestate.com.au. Follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram. Contact Campbell at +61 0457 581 632 and email@example.com.