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Olive Oil Presser

Cultivation of olives has always been and still remains a significant trade in the agricultural life of Lesvos. Around the end of the 19th century the first steam-powered olive oil presses started to be built, in which the olive fruit processing was done by olive oil mills powered either by menial power or with beasts of burden. The olive oil presses belonged to one or more owners who hired a certain number of laborers. The horse pushed the capstan (“volia”) for the milling of the olive fruit and the remaining work was completed menially, while the manual olive processes operated with help of a bolt (“adrakhti”). Olive oil pressers were organized in powerful and popular guilds in all villages and towns of Lesvos. Until 1912 the Ottomans taxed olive producers in kind under poll tax systems (one-tenth collection) and their production output was inspected by a tax collector (“mamouris”). The first steam-powered olive mills were built in the beginning of the 20th century. Steam energy made possible the crushing of increased quantities of olives and the expedited production of good-quality olive oil. The olive mills were built with investments by Lesvian tradesmen and landowners and they were specially lucrative enterprises. Since the 1920s many cooperative olive oil presses have been established. Steam-powered olive presses decreased dramatically in the post-war years, due to the decline in agricultural economy. After the 1970s all steam-powered facilities were being gradually replaced by modern electric-powered centrifugal machines requiring very few laborers.