Michalis Marakas

The mechanical patent in the service of olive growing

On a sunny Saturday morning, we set out from the city of Chania to the village of Xamoudochori in the Chania region, to meet Michalis Marakas, a producer of the organic extra virgin olive oil, Oreino Marakas. Entering the provincial road of Maleme-Nea Roumata, we found ourselves on a path surrounded by olive groves, not an unusual landscape in Crete but so beautiful to the ordinary visitor.

Upon arrival, we met a tall and lean man with a polite expression, typical of the people in Crete who greet you simply with their friendly gaze.

He invited us to visit the olive mill and olive grove first and to ask our questions at the end of the tour.

Michalis Marakas studied at the Agricultural University of Athens where he confirmed his particular inclination to the mechanical/technical part of the production and less to the cultivation per se. However, his family tradition and heritage led him to actively deal with all aspects of olive cultivation from the field to the final product. During the 1980’s, the rationalization of the estates, the sparser planting of trees and the supply of mechanical equipment to set up the olive mill, rendered the cultivation of the estates easier and allowed the modernization of the facilities while setting the standards for the future development of the product.

“I do not move forward with certainties, but with love and devotion to my craft”

In 2004, he decided to switch to organic farming, seeing the growing tendency to add chemicals to conventional farming. Time proved the decision right however, the new method of cultivation required constant effort and familiarization and a greater commitment being objectively more time consuming, while the result was uncertain as to the desired quality-price relationship. Today, the product is not subject to any particular price fluctuations as it did years ago, however the price-quality relationship remains a burden as the effort and work invested in a bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil is usually not reflected in its final price.

The 10,000 olive trees of the Koroneiki variety and to a lesser extent the Tsοunati, which adorn the olive grove, are planted on terraces in order to maintain the soil moisture, as the trees are as arid as the climate in the area. The organic cultivation method followed is certified by BIOSELLAS-BIOSUISSE, applying the most stringent practices, which by consequence extend to all cultivation and production stages up to the final product. Special reference should be made to the privately owned two-phase oil mill that is housed on the same piece of land, as it is the prime site for experimenting and engineering with a series of actions involving the recycling of residues and the creation of by-products thereby ensuring the energy and cultivation autonomy of the entire production chain. In particular, the pruning residues together with the waste of the oil mill form a mixture which after being fermented during summer, constitutes an excellent organic fertilizing product used in crop fields during the month of September. At the same time, the used oil mill filters are recycled and constitute the ideal fuel for stove burning while the olive core removed at the initial stage of the oil extraction procedure is used as a main fuel substitute. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the oil mill is free of any plastic components and works on low speed machines that consume less energy, thus reducing the carbon footprint in the environment.

“The olive grove as well as the olive mill are fields of perpetual experimentation for me”

Michalis Marakas shares his passion with Eftichis Androulakis (PAMAKO) for the continuous modernization of the olive mill where they jointly study and experiment with the various machinery in order to deliver the desired quality with the least possible environmental burden, while inventing new multi-usage by-products for everyday life.