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Giorgos Sakellaropoulos: the Award – Winning farmer from Sparta
by Kelly Fanarioti
Solon, the ancient philosopher and lawmaker, one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece, said about the olive tree – “A precious good for all life’s treatment.”
Today, over two thousand years later, hundreds of scientists from every corner of the planet swear by the nutritional value of this “blessed” fruit, while equally-numerous and dedicated producers strive to deliver its best quality to the consumer’s table.
One of them is Giorgos Sakellaropoulos, an organic farmer and producer from Sparta, who to date has received 579 awards for his products, “breaking” every world record in the field.
The palette of his specialized organic olive oil products in a limited edition includes organic cold pressed extra-virgin olive oils with low acidity, specialized premium gourmet olive oils, organic natural slightly-salted table olives, as well as gourmet and unsalted olives.
In addition, the product collection includes cold-extracted olive-oil, natural cosmetics, wax creams with St. John’s wort oil, and organic olive oil, and natural body oils.
“Our vision has always been to strive for the highest quality and I am very pleased with the international recognition of our products reflected in the hundreds of awards we have received to date,” he said in an interview with NEO magazine.
Among his most recent awards, several new and exclusive ones stand out, for their quality and taste, in the gastronomically high-standard world of olive oil and olives in major and important international competitions, where Greek products have never before received such distinction.
These include the Monte Carlo, Verona, Paris and Tokyo international competitions, and more recently the competition in London and Mendoza Argentina. Especially in Verona, Sakellaropoulos characterizes the distinction at the international competition, AIPO D’ARGENTO 2022, as “a rare and historic event in international olive-tree cultivation,” because a whole category (first place and six finalist olive oils awards) had the distinctive flavor of Spartan olive oil and its organic olive groves.
“Of very special significance to us are also the 15 awards we received in our 15 entries at the international London Olive Oil 2022 Competition,” says Sakellaropoulos, who took part for the first time in an international competition in London in 2012, after twenty years of preparation and several awards on the way. “There, after ten years with ratings of our products that exceeded 98%, we reached the top with more than 500 awards, which reflect our consistent high quality over the years.”
One more top international award for Sakellaropoulos represents a huge satisfaction, given that he started his agricultural enterprise in Sparta in 1992, at a time where organic farming was totally unknown in our country. At the age of 27 then, he studied the soil and climatological features of the area and proceeded with the cultivation of the Koroneiki and Kalamata olive trees.
“Despite the fact that I was very young, I had a very concrete goal – I did not start with an approach of ‘let’s do it and see what happens.’” he explains. “Today, thirty years on, the distinction of my products keep getting recognized and our exports exceed 90% of our production.”
The award-winning olive-oil producer gives special attenton to the health benefits of his products, besides the emphasis on innovation and developing new tastes and aromas. For this reason, his collaboration with researchers and scientists is of primary importance.
A typical example is represented by Spartan organic olives, which are being studied in American universities’ research programs, not just as a simple or organic food ingredient, but as potential food supplement which can offer multiple health benefits.
Three more universities are in the process of planning similar studies, one of them entitled “Olives for Health,” at the School of Public Health at Yale, already published on the well-known scientific database– ClinicalTrials.gov–which covers 50 American States and 220 more countries and is kept in the National Library of Medicine at the National Health Institute USA.
“Olives for Health” is a new research study on human health at Yale, and is about the daily consumption of table olives, with the purpose of evaluating their value as a Dietary Supplement on the blood serum levels of LDL cholesterol, the ratio LDL/HDL, glycated hemoglobin HbA1c and the C-reactive protein CRP, in approximately 226 volunteers aged 18-23.
“The choice of these specific organic olives was made by the Yale scientists because of their very high contents in polyphenols, exceeding by almost 500% the average level of polyphenols in table olives in general. More specifically these olives contain high concentrations of two phenols, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, substances with health protective antioxidant and cardioprotective properties” Sakellaropoulos explains.
He says these organic olive oils are being evaluated by the Harvard School of Public Health in a three-year research project entitled “ Interventional Study on Mediterranean Diet,” in the daily food intake of 1000 volunteers in 44 fire brigade stations in USA.
The aim of the 3-year Harvard School of Public Health Study is to show that changing dietary habits, using evidence-based interventions, in high-risk groups, especially with regard to heart attacks during the performance of demanding duties, as in the case of firemen, significantly lowers this risk.
“One thing is certain,” says Sakellaropoulos, “there are no fixed hours of work in my job. It is a total lonely journey without compromises and with long hours of work. This is inevitable when embarking on such a demanding endeavor especially when taking the first steps.’
‘Being different’ is a lonely path after all demanding a positive attitude and acceptance of ‘errors’ on the way. I try to see the positive side of things and I firmly believe that there is always something to learn from whatever happens. This stance and philosophy in life led to the development and evolution of my products, continuously striving for excellence in quality, simultaneously expanding my olive groves and exports in 16 countries of very high standards.”