Cape Town - There is something magical about South Africa’s farming culture.
Agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to SA’s economy, but farms are at the heart of the country for many other reasons - from our dependence on Mother Nature and showing appreciation for the production of quality food, to knowing where your food comes from as well as SA's agricultural contribution to the world.
While issues such as Listeriosis and the Cape water crisis affect SA's food sector, South African farms are showing tenacity amid adversity in order to keep thriving.
Additionally, in SA we have the opportunity for much more meaningful connection with farms - especially on the many working farms that offer family-orientated escapes where you can not only gain some perspective on life, but also gain some insight on how farms operate.
Here are some family farm stays around the country worth visiting:
Vrisch Gewagt - The Klein Karoo
A working olive farm, Vrisch Gewagt encapsulates the area's iconic export. They produce a beautiful and sustainable extra Virgin olive oil, gently pressed from olives which are full of the goodness from this area.
Harvest time happens between April – June of every year, if you'd like to coincide your visit with the farm's seasons.
There are a few different boutique style accommodation options, including large family homes located far apart across the farm. Altogether, there are three swimming pools and three fresh water dams, with floating decks that are a hit during summer months.
Included in a stay, guests can indulge in fresh produce from the farm, like Guernsey Milk from Wendy the Cow, Extra Virgin Olive oil, Olives, and anything you can pick from the organic vegetable garden and fruit trees.
Apart from the produce, hikers and explorers will also love the ancient mud and stone ruins on the farm that date back to about 1810.
The grand Paradys Huis has been restored to its original beauty, and was the winner for best restored home in the Home & Leisure Magazine. It boasts 3 bedrooms.
There is also the Manor House. Perched on a hill, the manor overlooks the olive groves. It's ideal for families, and it also boasts a big and warm open-style kitchen, four spacious en-suite bedrooms and peaceful views from every window.
The Karoo is almost too wide to define in a single province or space. The Midlands Karoo is the best land for mohair, for maize, for lucern, for cattle and sheep and Angora goats. It’s one of the richest farming hubs in the country, and it’s well worth getting to know.
Jan Harmsgat - Robertson Valley
An ideal stop-over during your wine travels through Robertson Valley is Jan Harmsgat historic farms and country house.
The farm offers guests an elegant and opulent ambience and journey - from décor to dining. The historically significant buildings allow for the combination of an authentic country stay with modern touches of pleasure – such as DSTV packages which can be enjoyed on flat screen TV’s and rooms with free Wi-Fi.
Guests may also drive through the winelands and explore nature reserves, hiking trails, and roadside stalls and shops in the area.
Enjoy wine produced at Jan Harmsgat paired with fine dining meals while staying over at one of the historic rooms.
Langfontein - The Great Karoo
Langfontein is a working game and cattle breeding farm in the stunning surroundings of the Camdeboo Conservancy outside Graaff-Reinet. Iconic to the area, the farm breeds with exotic and speciality game like roan antelope, sables and endemic buffalo.
Farm buildings have been carefully restored to capsulate the atmosphere of a bygone era - not compromising on uber-luxury. The bedrooms have crisp, white percale linen to ensure a good sleep in the clean Karoo air.
The cottage lounges have comfortable couches for reading, fireplaces, verandas and bathrooms with Victorian baths – the perfect recipe for wintry nights or thunderstorm afternoons in summer.
If you’d like to get out, the stunning Karoo towns of Graaff-Reinet and Nieu-Bethesda are close by. For the more serious adventurers, there are three hiking trails which mountain bikers can also use to explore the surrounds.
Farm to Table experience - The Midlands Karoo
My Kitchen Rules SA (MKRSA) mom-and-daughter team Elanie (aka Lani) Lombard and Louzel Lombard Steyn (also former Traveller24 content producer), have recently started offering a Farm to Table experience at their Waterval family farm outside Cradock.
The entire expereince includes farm accommodation for two nights, cooking classes and demos, and food and wine pairing.
The duo, who made it to the semi-finals of the show, also present a number of events on the farm such as workshops and classes on how to make pasta, ice-cream, biltong, bread and more.
They will be hosting the next Farm to Table experience over the public holiday on 1-2 May - a perfect opportunity to escape on a long weekend farm stay.
Lowlands Country House - The Midlands Karoo
Lowlands Estate is an Eastern Cape Karoo sheep, cattle and pecan nut farm on the iconic Fish River just outside Cradock.
The River’s presence fuels the farming community in the area, but also ensures visitors have a wide variety of water-based activities to get up to. Canoeing, river rafting, floating on tubes and bird watching are all on offer near the water while the nearby Mountain Zebra National Park makes for an ideal for day visit safari.
Exploring options are endless, or you can just take in the surrounds and enjoy traditional Karoo hospitality.
The farm hosts, Dave and Anne Bowker, form part of a Karoo community that still meets for tennis every Saturday afternoon, and go to church on a Sunday in the iconic 100 year old church at Fish River.
ALSO READ: Cradock: River town living at its best
The Lowlands Country House, which also includes the self catering Lowlands Manor and Dower Cottage, have lovely pools and a tennis court for those who don’t want to venture too far.
It’s easy to forget that the Winelands farms are some of the most worked on despite visitors hanging around throughout the year.
Babylonstoren – The Winelands
At Babylonstoren, guests can get close to the vines and gardens. The latter is the biggest drawcard perhaps, covering 3.5ha of the property, it's lush, magnificent and completely magical with rose vines towering overhead as they twirl around rustic wooden structures. Green peppers, lettuces, pumpkins and tomatoes flourish and glow with the sort of goodness we only dream of finding in the aisles of our local grocery stores.
Babylonstoren is actually relatively new to the production of wine, with 2015 hailing only its fifth harvest. Despite this, they have managed to produce no less than seven gorgeous wines, including their recently flagship red blend, the 2012 Nebukadneser.
Staying on the farm is also a relatively new experience. The Farm Hotel saw some of the existing farm buildings transformed into sophisticated guest accommodation options with those thick, whitewashed walls, elegant gables and hearty fireplaces that emulate the authentic farm stay experience.
There are six one-bedroom suites, as well as three one-bedroom cottages and four two-bedroomed cottages. The one- and two-bedroom cottages have a lounge area and basic kitchen, which are perfect for small families.
For larger families, however, The Owner's House is a prime Cape Dutch homestead that dates back to 1777. This exclusive house is available on request. It has five bedrooms accommodating ten guests. All rooms have a king-size bed, with two of the rooms having the option of twin beds.
Halfaampieskraal – The Overberg
Although this is a working Merino sheep and wheat farm, it is also one of the most beautiful country houses in the Western Cape boasting old-world charm.
The farmhouse is a stately manor, tastefully decorated with antiques and art – and a massive stuffed peacock in one corner with all its colourful feathers.
The string of outbuildings which once housed a schoolroom, blacksmith's forge and a wind generator’s room, and two ‘waenhuise’ have been transformed into luxurious guest rooms. The thick, solid clay walls insulate guests from the snap of winter and provide a cool summer refuge.
Just as you’ve forgotten it’s a working farm amid all the understated luxury, the gaggle of the resident geese serves as a reminder that the voluptuous feather duvet inners are very much a local product…
The food at Halfaampieskraal is another thing. Breakfasts are usually served al fresco and then at night, an elegant, home cooked three-course dinner will send you off to sweet dreams.
This is a perfect getaway for families with older children, as there is a 'no kids under 12' policy.
Stone Haven Cottage at Shawswood Farm - KZN Midlands
Located in the heart of Karkloof, Shawswood Farm’s Stone Haven Cottage is a tranquil spot for nature lovers to immerse themselves in the surrounding beauty.
The building itself dates back to 1880 and was once used as a stable and hay loft for the Shaw family. Nowadays the loft serves as a cosy bedroom with a double bed. There are also two fold-up chair beds for kids, but it’s a rather romantic spot and perfect for a weekend away with only the one you love.
There is cell phone signal and electricity, but no Internet access - making this farm stay a unique retreat.
Inverness Farm - KZN Midlands
Situated in the stunning Caversham Valley of KwaZulu-Natal’s iconic Midlands, Inverness Farm is home to a few resident horses, as well as cattle and free-range chickens. It also gives visitors magnificent 360-degree views of the surrounds, which means that you’ll be able to see the early morning mists in the valleys below, or marvel at the glorious late afternoon sunsets on the surrounding mountains and forests.
In an almost Biblical way, the farm also produces water and wine. The latter, which is bottled under the NatureZone label, comes from a well which sits 140 metres below the property. The vineyards - Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon - surround the four self-catering cottages and the owners hope to soon bottle their own wine from them.
The cottages, named SummerSon, Shetland, Savannah and Crofters, are able to accommodate 10 people, and all feature percale linen - a must for a farm getaway.
Amara Tomana is located on a farm at the foot of Langberg on the South African side of the Lesotho border. There is no electricity, so enjoy spending the evening chatting away surrounded by lantern and candle light. In addition, cell phone signal is "patchy" and there's also no Internet access.
The mountain cottage sleeps eight people – one main bedroom, slightly separate from the main house and then a second room with another double bed and 4 single beds.
The Herb Cottage - Magoebaskloof, Limpopo
At a working avocado, macadamia nut and herb farm, nature lovers can find The Herb Cottage.
This tranquil four-sleeper cottage is set among acres of rocket, fennel and coriander which give way to indigenous forests and the mountains of Magoebaskloof. The two en-suite bedrooms make it ideal for a family or two couples.
While boasting hiking opportunities, one may also opt to lounge alongside a private plunge pool.