The Good Oil

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Robin Trevilyan  on pigs, olives – and what is A remarkably interesting life

Robin Trevilyan is a quiet man with a humble nature. You may have encountered him, unknowingly, about Two Wells over the years, volunteering his time and experience to various community initiatives.

The Uniting church benefits from his gardening expertise as he manages the grounds, tending to the garden – pruning, watering and fertilising (he has won numerous local awards for his own garden).

The Two Wells public school is fortunate to have his help when the church holds a barbecue  for the students.

His involvement with the Rotary Club of Two Wells has seen his handy work contribute to the construction of the footpath from the main street to the historic wells, and a garden retreat at the school.

However, this discreet ‘man about the town’ also has a prolific resume in agriculture.

This, coupled with a creative sense of entrepreneurialism, which started way back during his school days when he sold stamps to his classmates, makes his life, so far, a fascinating story.

Born in Adelaide in 1944, his family moved to Banana in central Queensland for eight years when he was 16, and he quickly became a ‘rich teenager’ selling eggs from the chickens he kept on their farm.

“Dad would drive me down to the mines where I would sell them to the local miners for 65 cents a dozen,” he explained.

His keen sense for business saw him approach the workers laying the concrete foundations for a new supermarket in a nearby town.

He was pointed in the direction of the site-manager, who gave him the details of a gentleman in Brisbane who his contact with culminated in Robin supplying the eggs to the future grocery store.

He sold eggs for eight years and was dubbed by the industry inspector, suspicious of his production volume, “the most efficient egg producer in Queensland”, he fondly recalls.

Whilst still in Queensland, Robin befriended a local pig farmer who mentored and assisted Robin with this new interest and was able to show him the benefits of growing livestock in a modern style piggery.

When his family returned to South Australia in 1968 and settled in Two Wells, Robin continued his venture in rearing pigs and enjoyed much success.

This success was the fruit of his creativity and hard work.

He built his own sheds, grew his own grain, and produced feed in his own mill.

Due to his farm being a minimal disease piggery he had to breed his own pigs, using artificial insemination (AI), which he performed himself.

His quest for efficiency and attentiveness to the science of his work saw him travel to the United Kingdom on a study tour in 1980, using the winnings of a substantial amount of prize money in 1979 after showing his pigs.

He was 36 at the time and learnt much about the industry that he was able to implement back home.

He appeared on the BBC television program ‘Country Hour’, and also travelled to Copenhagen and Brussels to broaden his knowledge on best practice for pig production.

After 39 years of production and financial success, Robin took a leap of faith in another agricultural direction. Olives.

“I didn’t want to farm pigs for the rest of my life. It is a seven-day a week job, and I am getting older,” he said.

His wife Lesley and two children, James and Catherine, must have been relieved to see him take an alternative direction.

He took advice from church friend, Ray Bennett, and began the planting of 7000 trees a year over four years.

He now has 28,000 Signore variety olive trees, which produced 400 tonnes of olives when last harvested.

Trevi Olive Estate is now branded and he is in the process of securing bulk contracts. , all whilst gaining recognition for the quality of his oil with numeroud industry awards

Robin says the problem facing those in the olive oil industry in South Australia is cheap international imports of inferior quality.

Refined, adulterated oil is being put on our supermarket shelves to be sold at a cheaper rate than good quality local extra-virgin olive oil.

Consumers are unaware of the health risks associated with these cheap imports, not to mention an undeniably poorer taste.

Robin was unable to foresee the drop in price of local olive oil when he first ventured into the industry.

However, supermarket giant Coles, is doing its best to stock the Australian grown brands, with Woolworths hopefully following suit.

Robin explains that the growth of the Chinese middle class is seeing a demand for quality-imported foods, Australian olive oil being one of them. He hopes to enter that market in the near future.

In the meantime he is doing his best to promote the olive industry in South Australia.

“I enjoyed volunteering my time at the Adelaide show promoting SA extra virgin olive oil on behalf of the SA olive industry and assisting celebrity chef Rosa Matto with her cooking demonstrations using the oil in the Taste SA pavilion”, he tells me.

With his new found “celebrity chef” experience Robin was able to host a group a 39 ladies on his estate, the Moonta Red Hatters, and demonstrated his own cooking skills using recipes that included olive oil.

The Trevi Olive Estate was also a destination on the District Council of Mallala History Week Tour in 2013.

Apart from future success with the olive estate, Robin is looking forward to being able to continue his association with Rotary.

He was one of the founding charter members of the Two Wells Rotary Club back in 1988, and then president for five years before the club disbanded and handed in its charter in December 2011.

Not only has he freely volunteered his time locally with the club, he has also used his own funds to travel overseas and lend a hand.

He travelled to the Solomon Islands to help with the construction of a physiotherapy clinic on a hospital site with Rotary in 1998.

Robin now enjoys attending the Playford and Elizabeth clubs.

When talking with Robin, you get the sense that he is unaware of how remarkable the achievements he has made in his life so far are. And that he is close to establishing himself and his estate in the olive industry.

The town of Two Wells is privileged to boast of many community-minded individuals, and Robin Trevilyan certainly qualifies as one of them.

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