The Contrarian Eco-Farmer

Me and Yoni on his breathtaking deck

Me and Yoni on his breathtaking deck

As I stepped out of the car at the stunningly rugged Orlyya Farm, my body innately knew what to do – take a number of deep cleansing breaths. Nestled high into the ridge of rugged desert hills, overlooking the Tzin stream water system that runs through the Negev Desert, the Orlyya farm and eco-retreat exudes a sense of serenity.

In the mid 1990’s the Israeli government, together with the local council, created an incentivized program for smallholder farmers and eco-tourism entrepreneurs to venture out, settle and regenerate the Negev desert. This was all Yoni and Orli needed to launch their initiative, as they were already intrinsically entwined in the area with Yoni working as a National Park Ranger in the nearby Sde Boker area.  

Everything one sees on the Orlyya Farm are the fruits of labour of Yoni Sharir, his wife Orli and their five children. Initially, the farm was off-the grid, and even today, all man-made infrastructure is hand-built and implemented with the ethos of minimal intrusion and impact on nature.  

Since the inception of Orlyya, the Sharir’s have been seeking endeavors that on the one hand differentiate their farm from the other small desert farms in the area, and on the other still remain in complete alignment with the farm’s environment. Alongside the eco-tourism aspect of the farm, the Sharir’s have grown herbs, baked bread, trained camels and integrated homesteading into the lifestyle on the farm. About fifteen years ago, the Sharir’s became interested in the wonders of argan oil, commonly referred to as Moroccan oil, produced from the kernels of the argan tree that is endemic to Morocco. The overwhelming deterrents and discouragement that Yoni and Orli received when they touted the notion of planting Argan trees on the farm were precisely the motivating factors that drove them to pursue this initiative.

Commencing with only four nuts brought in from Morocco, after a careful and patient process of acclimatization to the Negev climate, today there are now countless trees on the farm. Orlyya produces Argan nuts twice a year, and creates products including oils and soaps.  Due its unique chemical properties, the argan nut, and more specifically the oil extracted from the nut, have been used for culinary, cosmetic and wellness purposes for centuries in Morocco. Over eighty percent of the oil is composed of unsaturated fatty acids and it has a high concentration of vitamin E, which together boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Argan’s natural phenols produce a beautiful nutty vanilla tone making it perfect for the use in food preparation, predominantly salads, couscous and meat dishes, as well as cosmetic production.

Argan nut harvest on the Orlyya Farm


Argan nut harvest on the Orlyya Farm

Being the successful trailblazers in argan nut and oil production in Israel, today the Sharir family solely focuses on their argan oil production on the farm, alongside their eco-retreat cabins and camping hospitality offering. 

All the argan nuts on the Orlyya Farm are harvested by hand by the Sharirs, and the entire oil extraction process is done on-site by the simple yet effective hand-made presses. The Orlyya line of argan oil products today includes a pure argan oil for food preparation, a hand ointment, a hair ointment, a peeling soap and a butter. The entire line of finished products is prepared in accordance with demand to ensure the customer receives the most authentic, pure and fresh products. All the products are pesticide and fertilizer-free and organically grown, as everything about the Orlyya Farm including the family of farmers, lives and breathes simple, natural and non-intrusive integration with nature.  

We’re proud to be able to share the Orlyya journey with all of you, and we are dedicated to ensuring that each product we present through SHEFA is closely intertwined with positive impact in Israel and across the globe. Each time you open a bottle of Orlyya oil, salad dressing, or indulge in self-care with their soaps, we want you to be inspired and motivated by their story of renewal and regeneration.

Reach out to us to share your own ideas for products you’re looking to replace with waste-free, organic and purpose-driven solutions, and tell us about how you’d like to make the world a better place through your everyday purchases. 

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