1. What brought you to where you are today – a woman in agriculture?
Since attending school, I have always had a keen interest in science. That interest, together with assisting my mom in the kitchen by preserving various fruits, led me to pursue a B.Sc. in Food Science, and this degree falls under the Dept. of Agriculture. I then married a farmer, who farmed fruits, olives and wine grapes, and the rest, I would say, happened naturally. I also then moved onto Agri-tourism.
2. Are there unique challenges as a woman in the olive growing and olive oil making business?
I would say, the preserving of olives and the extraction of oil from olives is a very delicate and complex process to master. It can be quite a challenge yes, but it is an ongoing learning process.
So for me, I would say the unique challenges are attending courses and putting in the hard work. While my husband is the farmer, we will receive fresh olives from him and then continue with the extraction process.
3. What are the hard skills you need to make it work?
Hard skills for this industry would be understanding the chemistry and micro-biology of olives and extra virgin olive oil. This is especially good to know in the case of solving any product problems.
4. What are the soft skills you need to make it work?
My soft skill, I would say, is emotional intelligence. Having this skill will enable one to work with a diversity of people. At Het Vlock Casteel, we are always working in a team – and we always acknowledge and consider everyone’s perspective and ideas. We do this to help adapt and grow as a business. Another soft skill is interaction and communication with our clients, as these are extremely important.
5. What has been a highlight in your career in the olive industry thus far?
A great highlight of mine was having the chance to develop my passion and studies into a successful business, as this has led me to be known as a knowledgeable woman within the olive industry. Because of this, I have been given the opportunity to do informative sessions with clients.
6. Why do you love what you do?
I love it, because doing something creative and unique is rewarding. I feel – with olives – the sky is the limit.
7. What does the future hold – for you, your business, and the country?
Our motto is, ‘Deeply Rooted’ – and this remains true, as we are deeply rooted in our Dutch history, agriculture and our faith in God.
At HVC, only the best is good enough – so, in the future, we will keep up with the good work, remain strict in our quality control and continue to develop new products.
At this stage, the time has come for us to hand over to the next generation.
8. Do you have a funny story about your time in the olive business?
In our shop, everything can be tasted. One day a client accidentally took a pip, which was in the pip bucket, and started to chew it. After realizing what it was, his remark was, “I know your shop always has new products, I just thought the pip was one of them.” That amused us.
9. What does your support structure look like?
We are a family business, which is very satisfactory. My daughter, Ansie and I are partners in the business. My other daughter, Anne-Mart manufactures our hand-made sweets, olive soap etc, while my husband and son are the farmers who supply all our fruit and olives.