Our appreciation of food – and nature – has been accentuated during this global health crisis and South Africa’s lockdown period. During this time, we can no longer enjoy a meal at our favourite restaurant. Nor can those in the Western Cape drive to a wine farm to relish in a wine tasting, walk on a scenic nature trail or delight in a top-class farm-to-plate experience in the Cape Winelands. Yet despite not being open for trade, many innovative Cape wine farms have been making a vital and positive difference by providing food for local communities.
These are the champions
Through the lens of looking after nature, we acknowledge the 40 environmental leaders in South Africa’s wine industry – WWF’s Conservation Champions – as identified by the distinctive logo of a protea and sugarbird. These conservation-inspired landowners commit to biodiverse-friendly farming practices, protecting conservation-worthy natural areas, and continually improving their water and energy efficiencies.
Besides growing grapes, many of these champion farms also grow other fresh produce – for their plates and ours – and have been generously sharing their natural bounty with those who have needed it most. We like to call it #GrowingGoodness.
Farming in harmony with nature – with regenerative principles of giving more back to the soil than you take out – is more important now than ever.
Giving back to nature – and people
Boschendal is a Franschhoek Conservation Champion. In addition to its well-known vineyards, Boschendal also grows fruit, vegetables and herbs for its deli and restaurant, as well as rearing its own award-winning Angus beef. (The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal was the 2018 winner of the Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award.) During lockdown, Boschendal joined forces with churches, schools and community leaders in the Dwars River Valley to supply nutritious food – weekly farm vegetables, 200 loaves of freshly baked bread, meat and more than 20,000 eggs – to community soup kitchens and those in the area who desperately need healthy food. Boschendal’s abundance of fresh produce, combined with the temporary closure of the hospitality arm of their business, allows them to make a real difference in a time of need.
Spier is another dedicated Conservation Champion exceptional at water conservation and aiming for zero waste on its farm. Spier has been engaged in incredible community projects linked to the Lynedoch community and the Sustainability Institute in the Stellenbosch area. The Living Soils Community Learning farm – an initiative between partners Spier, Woolworths and the Sustainability Institute – has been supplying fresh produce boxes on a weekly basis to the local community during the lockdown.
In the Elgin Valley, Paul Cluver wine and fruit farm – a successful family-run business and longstanding Conservation Champion – is continually striving to produce more by using less with the help of technology and precision practices. Like others, they are harvesting the gifts of nature in the form of fresh apples and pears for local and international markets. Though an integral part of the bigger wine family, the Salt at Paul Cluver restaurant has had to remain closed during the lockdown period, causing extensive losses for the business. Considering the uncertainty of when and in what form the re-opening of the hospitality industry may occur, the farm is showing solidarity with others in similar positions and has started the Save & Support campaign. The offering is a 20 per cent discount on your favourite Paul Cluver wine – in return, they will donate 20 per cent to a participating restaurant of your choice.
Almenkerk, a Conservation Champion in the Elgin Valley, is celebrating its bountiful autumn harvest with Pink Lady and Rosy Glow apples. These delicious fruit parcels, sold both locally and internationally, are packed with antioxidants to help boost you and your family’s immune systems, which is especially vital during this period.
Other Conservation Champion farms offering provisions include Lourensford, Oak Valley, Koelfontein and Elgin Orchards, all of which are busy with its apple and pear harvests, while Gabrielskloof, Wildekrans and Kloovenburg are selecting its best olives in preparation for olive oil production.
These are just a few of the Conservation Champion farms doing what they can to support people and nature during these challenging times.
We hope that you have a newfound admiration for these hardworking, deeply caring community- and conservation-focused farms. It’s definitely a time to be thankful to our farmers and to support the work being done to make a difference – for nature and for you.
For more insights into the WWF Conservation Champions, be sure to follow @FollowTheSugarbird on Instagram and stay tuned for more on these farms and their #GrowingGoodness initiatives.