History of Kleinvlei Farm in the Cederberg
So how did our family get here and what do we grow?

Cederberg Ridge lies on Kleinvlei farm, one of the oldest farms in the region.  Irish settlers came to the fledging town of Clanwilliam, and its surrounding farms, in 1807.  In fact Clanwilliam, in the Cederberg Mountains, is the 7th oldest town in South Africa. (The area had originally been explored by one of Anton's ancestors, Oloff Martinus Bergh back in the late 17th century. See our article on the history of the Cederberg as well...) 

William Parker was the leader of the Irish Settlers and he was given a portion of land to farm. This was Kleine Valley (1 600 morgen) which is now our farm Kleinvlei. However this Irishman, used to lots of rain in his home country, wanted to settle in the more temperate Knysna. So he was crazy about our hot and dry Mediterranean climate. He soon returned to Ireland in some disgust. However one of the remaining families, the Shaw family, decided to settle on Kleine Valley (Kleinvlei) instead. They made their home in Shaw’s Kloof. One of our longer farm walks is along this beautiful valley, and you pass the remains of their very dilapidated cottages on the walk.

Kleinvlei was hard going from a farming point of view due to our lack of rainfall. (We are classified as semi-arid as we only get less then 200mm of rain a year.) But the valley has a river flowing through it which means that it is a viable proposition... just. The settlers later moved further down the valley and built a long white-washed thatched house as their home.  Later, in the 1840s, the Bergh descendants of Oloff Bergh returned to the area. They originally purchased a farm in the “Agter Pakhuis’ area.  This is the other side of the Cederberg Mountains which you'll see if you go on a rock art excursion to the Sevilla Rock Art trail. As you come down the pass it is the first homstead on the left.  Later they moved to a farm right on the top Pakhuis Pass. This is where the Cape nature headquarters are now. Some of the graves of Anton's ancestors are stlll there. In 1907 the Bergh Family finally moved down into the valley and purchased Kleinvlei farm, and it has been in the family ever since. They extended the original 1820’s house so that it became a long four-bedroom house.  

Anton’s grandfather and father developed a series of irrigation channels which diverted the river into the fruit orchards. So began an early type of water irrigation. Anton's father, Denis, built a large farm dam and this water supply allowed Dennis and Anton to expand the farm.

Tragically the original 1820’s thatched Cape Dutch homestead, where Anton’s widowed mother still lived, burnt down at night in 2013. It took only half an hour to burn completely because of the thatched roof. We arrived on the scene as soon as we could, but it was too late to save it. My husband had run to barefoot to his pick-up when he heard the news. So luckily he wasn't tempted to go in to try to save anything.  This was a huge loss. But we are so thankful that Anton's mother was away at the time and so no-one was hurt. She decided to move to a smaller house and we had a farmhouse which we loved.

So we decided to build Cederberg Ridge instead of re-building a new farmhouse. It had long been a dream of ours to have a lodge on the farm to showcase our little-known area. So we decided to make lemonade out of lemons! 

Farming on Kleinvlei Today

In the Cederberg area, the amount of  farming you can undertake is conditional on your water supply, not the size of your farm!. We have a relatively large farm of 3,000ha. But we can only farm a small portion intensively as we need water to grow anything. That's why the lodge looks over the 'farm' but you cannot see any farming at all, only virgin bush! Our main crops are table grapes and citrus. 

Table Grapes

Table grapes are eating grapes rather than grapes for wine production. The main harvest is from mid December to the end of February, at the hottest part of the year. Speed is of the essence as you need to get the grapes off the vines, packed and into a cold store as soon as they ripen. A day or two's delay could be critical as they could ripen too much. We export the grapes to the northern hemisphere, during their winter season, when local production is not possible. The grapes need to survive the journey in tact which is why picking at the optimum time is so crucial.  You may be surprised to know that producing good table grapes requires an enormous amount of effort and labour. We prune the vines. Then we constantly attend to them to ensure that the bunches are attractive enough for today's discerning consumer! We take our the stray, small grapes so that the bunches have a classically shape and grapes of even size. Crazy I know! But it does produce lots of work for people who may be unemployed otherwise. In peak season, we employ around 100 people on the farm to pick and pack the grapes.  

Citrus

The citrus harvest is a longer and slightly less stressful experience. We harvest the first cultivars in April and the harvest continues through to September. We have several different types of oranges and each has different characteristics. Not every orange is an eating orange for example! Some are much better suited for squeezing for orange juice. Others are better for jam-making. The freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast is straight from the farm!  

In Summary, farming is now an industrial process with large cold stores and packing sheds taking over from the original, picturesque outbuildings. This is another reason why we didnt rebuild the old farmhouse in its original position. Farming is not as tranquil as you might imagine! We have four large cold stores. Plus two packing sheds, one for citrus and one for grapes (with a make-shift form of air cooling as it is very hot.) We also pack grapes and citrus for smaller nearby farmers. We sometimes pack with the overseas supermarkets labels on already. And sometimes we pack under our own brand, if we are selling to a wholesaler. We also offer farm tours as well as to Lemoenland pre-school. This is a proper infant school that we set up for our farmworkers' children, and those of neighbouring farms.