Farms, Fireplaces and Family-the rise of agritourism
Breaking away to a working farm has just the right amount of nostalgia, mixed with education, and exploration to make it a sustainable holiday trend
“I don’t eat these eggs, I eat the ones from the shop!”
My wife and I looked at each other and smiled. Our five-year-old son and his friend were collecting eggs from our chicken coup, a daily ritual for our young ones. On weekends, they get to have eggs for breakfast, their reward for caring for their hens all week long. His friend, however, was not buying into the organic lifestyle, with the sincerity that only a child can muster.
Her comment was nothing more than a spontaneous reaction, but it struck a chord. I remember the icy mornings of winter holidays spent on my grandfather's farm west of Reitz in the Free State. Waking up at 5 in the morning and running barefoot over frosted lawns to the milk shed to see cows being milked by hand. Every day on a working farm was eventful. Experiencing farming first hand, gave me a deep sense of where the food in the supermarket comes from. Pulling carrots from the rust-red earth and rinsing them in water from the borehole before chomping one down fostered a connection with the earth that I find hard to express. It’s as if it has seeped into my blood, into my being. Which is why the disconnectedness of a normal city kid created such a stark contrast.
In an age of artificial everything, at a time where we see virtual and augmented reality growing in popularity, there is a cultural shift happening. We see a trend emerging, an attempt to regain our connection with the earth. Parents are waking up to the impact of the things they consume. From the food they eat and the clothes they wear, down to the plastic straws they used to discard. More and more people opt to combine their vacation- and family time with the educational experience of seeing where everyday things come from.
The uptick in interest in agritourism created an opportunity for complementary revenue streams for farmers, which created new job opportunities for communities around these farms. Farmers across the country rose to the occasion and many an old ruin had new life breathed into it, empty barns were converted, and untillable soil became luxury campgrounds.
One challenge we have found since travelling with kids is the consistency of the experience. Specifically, in terms of accommodation. Even with photos on booking websites and pins on maps, it is still hard to know what you will find when you arrive. No one wants to return from a break more tired and stressed than they have left. This often tempts parents into going to the one or two locations that have worked for them in the past instead of exploring all South Africa has to offer.
AfriCamps, founded by Jeroen van Rootselaar and Manou Bleumink, has a great recipe that gives you both consistency of a great stay, and the novelty of different farms to explore. Their luxury tents offer the same class wherever you go. Fresh linen, comfortable beds, air conditioning, and an indoor woodfire stove are just some of the amenities that make Glamping the perfect way to experience farm life. We found ample wood and with both an indoor and outdoor fireplace, it’s the perfect winter getaway found at eight locations across South Africa.
With breathtaking views offered at each AfriCamps destination, experiences vary depending on which farm you visit. The whole family gets to take leisurely hikes around the farm, climb mountains and “koppies” and let nature soothe their souls. The kids also learn so much by being on the farm, from seeing where chickens lay their eggs, and how milk is produced, to feeding horses and eating meals prepared with fresh produce from the farm. AfriCamps have built glamping camps on working farms around the country, which means a variety of farm activities await, depending on the area you visit. You can take the family to experience locally produced wine at Doolhof in Wellington, walk among the proteas and pincushions of Stanford Hills, experience the wonder of helping ostrich chicks hatch at AfriCamps Klein Karoo in Oudtshoorn, or delight in the dairy and eggs produced at Oakhurst in Wilderness, without having to guess what your stay will be like.
After a long and eventful day on a farm, there are few things more rewarding than to spend an evening around a fire with the family. Roasting marshmallows or sipping hot chocolate while staring into the flames and listening to the grownups tell stories, are memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Plan your next family holiday on a working farm, connect more deeply with nature, and let your little ones get a better appreciation for the source of the food they enjoy. When you do, remember to take lots of pictures and share them with us on social media.
Telephone: +27 (0)63 170 4222
Locations: Wellington | Robertson | Swellendam | Stanford | Oudtshoorn | Wilderness | Plettenberg Bay | Hazyview | The Midlands
Read more on agritourism by visiting www.agritourismsouthafrica.com
“Agritourism is applicable to family-owned working farms, so each farm is different and offers unique experiences at reasonable prices (the infrastructure is already on the farm, so no capital investment is needed). Family farmers, I have found, are very hospitable and keen to show visitors what they do.” - Jacqui Taylor (Founder & Managing Director Agritourism South Africa, www.agritourismsouthafrica.com)