With a conversational grin and food-tales told with heart, it is easy (and enjoyable) to get swept up in Richard Seymour’s passion for the sun-burnt country and his family’s business Mount Zero Olives.
Named after the mountain that nestles the property’s boarder, Mount Zero Olives is located on the fringe of the Grampians National Park, in Western Victoria.
Planted in the 1950’s by Israeli migrant Jacob Freeman, Mount Zero Olives is now one of the oldest commercial groves in the state. The property offers visitors a stunning Australian desert-scape of big skies, ochre-stung earth, rocky mountains and, of course, a vista of olive trees.
The Seymour family has owned the farm and the business for over 20-years, and Richard, has been General Manager for the last six. Together, and with their team, they move regularly between the farm and their Melbourne homes, living the slow food dream.
TENANT spoke to Richard Seymour about his commitment to Australian produce and why local communities and sustainable business partnerships remain more appealing than a fast buck.
Hi Rich, thanks for talking to TENANT. Can you tell us a bit about the background of the business and what attracted you to working in this industry and for your family?
My parents bought the property when I was in high school. I guess it was largely a romantic purchase. My father, Neil, grew up on an apple orchard at Red Hill – which is now a winery, and I think my family has always been interested in farming and the land.
After I finished high school, I went to university and undertook an Applied Science degree with a major in eco-tourism, during this time I worked part-time for the business, in sales and marketing.
After I finished university I worked full-time for food distributors Simon Johnston and Rooms Foods. This was a mutually beneficial experience as, while I was working for them, I was also in a position to promote Mount Zero Olives’ produce. I guess I worked about two years at each place. I learned a great deal, and met some fantastic people.
I decided to return to focus on the family business as I could see the potential and understood that it might not reach its potential without a loyal commitment to a long-term vision and to long-term rewards.
What are you most proud of professionally?
I am proud of the brand that we have built. It has a lot of goodwill and good reputation within the food industry and with the general population.
We wanted to create something that would and that will grow organically and maintain its quality. We chose to be content with slow growth and to maintain a hands-on approach to things, rather than to chase the big bucks. We feel that like-attracts-like and believe that partnering with other quality brands; with other family owned and community focused business we will grow the brand with integrity and at a pace that we are comfortable with.
Do you have a dream project for Mount Zero Olives?
I spend my days going in-and-out of, and spending time in, so many fantastic cafes and restaurants; someday I would love to open a retail/ hospitality business.
When you are in Melbourne, in what postcode do you reside?
3012 – West Footscray.
How long have you lived here?
6 years now.
What do you like about the suburb, the area?
I love its cultural and economic diversity, which brings with it incredible food, arts and a sense of community.
What would be your current favorite shop and/or amenity in the suburb?
I love Aangan Indian restaurant, in particular the agony and the ecstasy of their Laal Ghost! The Sourdough Kitchen in Seddon is great and I love visiting the Sun Theatre and the Maribyrnong river to walk the dog.
If you did not live there where would you live?
At the farm – 3401, the inherent beauty of the mountains; the energy of the place. It is a really special spot.
Where did you grow up?
In the eastern suburbs – 3141.
Where did you holiday?
I remember a lot of holidays in the national parks of East Gippsland. Beautiful places like Snowy River and like Croajingolong.
Ah, that seems to suit who you have become, holidaying and dreaming in Victorian national parks, and now operating a business from close to another very famous national parks area, the Grampians.
Speaking of nature – do you have a favourite season in Melbourne & why?
I love the summer – for the heat and the water (sports) and for the long day-light hours, which bring many a relaxed evening and outdoors socializing with family and friends.
What is a place in Melbourne that reminds you of home, but is not?
Mount Zero is a home away from home of sorts, so I can’t really say that… even though it is the first place that comes to mind. I love Fitzroy. I lived and worked there for a number of years, and I always feel at home…so Fitzroy.
The thing(s) you are most proud of about Melbourne?
Melbourne is a city that is constantly evolving and innovating – and its people are constantly creating. For instance, for the size of population we have a ridiculous amount of cafes and restaurants but somehow it seems to work. I think we like to support each other. I also like that Melbourne works on a sub-level, it’s not a super showy place but if you want to enjoy Melbourne you only have to ask and you are richly rewarded.
Change you would most like to see in Melbourne…
Having an agricultural business and being a proud Melburnian I am not a fan of the urban sprawl and I would like to see greater density. Sprawling into prime agricultural land is heart-breaking and I think it promotes cultural isolation. I feel that the density brings people and business closer and makes things more sustainable and economical.
Where might we find you next weekend in Melbourne?
Well it will definitely start at a Melbourne Community Farmer’s Market, afterwards it will be some kind of mix of catching up with family and friends, and every second weekend, or so, a group of mates meet for a a social game of soccer.
Being in the business and a ‘foodie’, readers will want to know some of your favourite places to eat around Melbourne town…?
I love a Friday night steak at the Station Hotel in Footscray and the original Movida in Hosier Lane was a favourite of mine when it opened in 2003 and is still a sentimental favourite. I also enjoy a good breakfast at The Duchess Of Spotwood, cooked by the Prince of Pork – Andrew Gale.
Who is a Melburnian that you would like to introduce to TENANT?
I would like to introduce Cath Claringbold. She is a great person, and who as a chef has seen Melbourne cuisine and lifestyle really evolve, it think she would have some interesting views on Melbourne for TENANT.
Thanks for your time and for your tales Rich! See you at a Melbourne food-market or shared-table sometime soon.