This Winelands accommodation is located on a farm near the Robertson wine valley, the farm was previously very neglected and most of the farm was at some stage cultivated with wheat or fodder for animals. We started, seventeen years ago (when we bought the farm) to return our ‘backlands’ back to the ‘wild’, not cultivating or planting wheat and removing cattle from that area. We also re introduced springbuck, black wildebeest and ostriches into this area. All animals are living in the wild; we are not ‘farming’ with them. We did proper contours to avoid soil erosion and made provision for dams to hold water for the animals.
Slowly this area is retuning to the bush that once grew there and wild natural game is returning. We now have wild grey rhe-buck roaming and jumping over our fences, as they feel safe with us (no hunting taking place). Mountain tortoises have also returned and increased in numbers over the years. We do separate our waste and that of our staff houses i.e. glass, plastic, paper & tins and transport it to the municipal dump as well as to recycle containers in town. Our staff are well informed and we make our own compost on the farm, reusing it in our vegetable garden. We use organic fertilizer where possible and use little or no agricultural sprays on our fruit and nut trees. We do not use chemical cleaning materials for our toilets or bathrooms as we have French drains.
All our staff at this Winelands accommodation are from the local farm worker community. Most of them have been trained from scratch by us to be able to enter the hospitality/tourism industry. The skills and education levels were of a very low standard and we had to start from the bottom, sometimes having to teach them to read and write and with the help of an English teacher, teaching them to speak English. We started doing this since we bought the farm, seventeen years ago – the guest house was started only eight years ago. Wages are considerably more than that in the agricultural sector and most of our staff earn well excess of the minimum wages stipulated by the hospitality sector. Most staff members live on our property in housing supplied by us.
We buy soaps from Rain Lifestyle boutique in Swellendam, everything is locally produced and one of the self-help groups doing embroidery for Rain, was started by us. We use local freelance farm labourers to do the pruning of our fruit trees every season. We use a local Thatcher to maintain and repair our thatch roof. We use a local ex farm worker who is now a builder and painter to do small handy man jobs at the guest house.
We have specific projects we work on during the year that benefits disadvantaged communities in our area:
‘Dance for All’ concert:
We make all local arrangements for the tour of this group of African dancers from townships around CT during April each year. We book the venue, the accommodation, the meals, put up the posters, sell the tickets and do PR. We take our guests to the concert (they often tell us it is the high point of their visit to SA) and we arrange sponsorship for farm workers and disadvantaged kids from local schools to attend. We have been doing this now for five years, the next concert is in April 2008.
Cape Classic Concerts in Swellendam’s Moederkerk:
We make all arrangements for this yearly event during March. Professional German artists perform for free and the proceeds go to local charities. This year the Cooper street feeding scheme in Swellendam received a monthly stop order from Cape Classic concerts.
We helped secure funds to build a crèche in a local township, the ‘Buffeltjies play school’ and in the process helped local women to start a self-help sewing group called ‘Stitching Friends’. ‘Stitching Friends’ also received funds from Cape Classic concerts for the last two years which enabled them to buy sewing machines and other equipment. Two of the Stitching Friends members were able to secure permanent jobs as seamstresses with ‘Rain lifestyle boutique’ in Swellendam and the rest of the group have secured freelance work and we continue to be involved with mentoring work done by this group.
We started The Old Gaol Coffee shop in the Museum complex in Swellendam, it is now a successful sustainable business with two of the women staff members now having 30% of the ownership. This is an empowerment business started with one of our previous cooks at the guesthouse. They are doing a fantastic job of promoting the country to tourists, serving busloads of tourist’s traditional South African food. We are inundated with accolades about the high standard of their product and service.
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