Aude: at L’Oulibo, Pierre-André Marty wrote 43 years the history the emblematic Bize-Minervois olive cooperative

Pierre-André Marty was only 22 years old and very courageous when, in 1981, he took charge the L’Oulibo cooperative in Bize-Minervois, an over-indebted structure that was failing. For several years, he went it alone to achieve what is this Aude flagship which now employs 40 full-time equivalents. With the feeling of having accomplished his duty, he retired and left his successor a healthy coop.

Since its creation in 1942, the L’Oulibo de Bize-Minervois olive cooperative has not only experienced joyful chapters. It was initially just a mill and it stopped working in 1956 when, due to frost, the olive groves were completely devastated. Its sleep lasted until 1975 and the restart was sluggish to say the least. In 1991, the directors of the cooperative decided to recruit a director. Around ten candidates were auditioned. Pierre-André Marty was one of them. “In fact, I was kept in second position. Someone other than me sat in the director’s chair. He only lasted a week and slammed the door, frightened by the situation and the magnitude of the construction site”he says.

“It was the wild west when I arrived!”

Promoted to director immediately, Pierre-André Marty surely had no idea that he would direct L’Oulibo for 43 years. Especially given the circumstances: “It was the wild west! I locked myself in the office, shutters closed, to avoid the bailiffs and the police. This lasted five years”he remembers.

The Oulibo logo, which he created, was inspired by that of Batman which was projected into the sky and onto the buildings of Gotham .
The Independent – PHILIPPE LEBLANC

“Making olives is not an empirical science”

He had to learn everything over the years. “Making olives is not an empirical science. It is especially the debittering processes that are difficult to master at the start”, he explains. For several years, he was at the oven and at the mill, managing administration and production. Very quickly, he felt that the Lucca olive was an opportunity, an asset for the cooperative, a product to be valued and promoted. So, once the know-how had been acquired, he set out to walk each of the streets of all the towns in the region, but also the markets, the fairs, the restaurants, all while running the small coop store. “It was tedious because I was ladling out of containers that customers brought. So I decided to make jars that I labeled myself with upholstery glue”, remembers André-Pierre Marty. And then came the first hires. Creating the logo…

“We don’t offer luxury, but high-end,” says the person who hands over a coop in top shape.
The Independent – PHILIPPE LEBLANC

“Few people know it, but I was a big fan of comic strips and comics. The lolo of L’Oulibo, as projected, was inspired by that of Batman who was alerted by the projection of his own logo when he was called for help”, says Pierre-André Marty. This logo has become emblematic in Languedoc and beyond. The cooperative’s products, olives and oils, are among the jewels of and have a protected designation of origin. The picholines, olive trees and lucques of Oulibo are a reference and even take pride of place on the shelves of Fauchon. “It’s not luxury, it’s high-end that we offer”rejoices the director, recently retired.

Today, the Bize olive cooperative has 40 full-time equivalent employees, including 33 year-round staff. The store records 120,000 visits per year and draws its strength from a network of partners, all local producers, woven over four decades of convict labor pursuing a laudable goal: fair remuneration for the 700 members and establishing a model reliable economical. “So that olive production remains the 13th month of winegrowers“, underlines Pierre-André Marty.

Oulibo has become a flagship of Languedoc gastronomy thanks to the dedication of one man.
Oulibo has become a flagship of Languedoc gastronomy thanks to the dedication of one man.
The Independent – PHILIPPE LEBLANC

The one who created everything here, in Bize-Minervois, who made a moribund cooperative a real tourist destination, in particular thanks to the Odyssey, a guided tour deliberately paying to ensure quality is guaranteed, will turn the page. Because he has “the knowledge”, he passed it on to Antoine Pirès, former quality manager who becomes his successor. Because he owns olive trees, he becomes a “member” of L’Oulibo. There is no question of him intervening in the future of the cooperative. “I express the wish that the product is never sold off, that the quality is maintained and that the producers are fairly remunerated. And I have complete confidence, especially in the emergence of new ideas. Of course, if I Ask for advice, I’ll be there.”

Increasingly random harvests

At 65, Pierre-André Marty does not necessarily have “cushy” retirement prospects. Between his children and grandchildren, his move to , his (diminished) desire to travel, his passion for motorcycles and his olive trees, his end of career will be active. And before moving from light to shadow, he raises concerns related to the climate. “Irrigation of olive groves will ultimately be essential. But not only that. Our entire southern agriculture is now threatened, I am thinking of winegrowers as well as fruit and vegetable producers”, he said. Economic concerns, too. According to him, diversification for winegrowers who are hard-working should not involve excessive planting of hectares of olive trees. Because the economic balance is precarious to say the least. And the harvests often called into question.

The dove brought the olive branch to Noah to signal the end of the flood and announce the return of life to Earth. The Minervoise dove has just handed over, in addition to the branch, retirement rights for André-Pierre Marty. “I’ve been working with him for 23 years and, believe me, honestly, he’s beyond wonderful.”an employee told us before leaving the newly retired.

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