Vredenhof is a farm of 27 hectares located in Bredell Road, 1 kilometre off the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch. We grow about 100 different vegetables, herbs and fruits and, thanks to the benign climate, we are able to plant and harvest all year round. Some crops, like lettuces, carrots, spinach (Swiss chard), beetroots and spring onions, grow all year round. Other crops, like strawberries and asparagus, grow in the spring; tomatoes, beans, squashes, peppers and brinjals grow in the summer; grapes and pears in the autumn; and peas, cabbages, leaks, kale and broccoli in the winter.
We use only natural products on our farm. We use natural additives, such as compost, manure and guano, to enrich our soil and we also use these products for top-dressing and foliar-feeding. Healthy plants, like healthy humans, have strong immune systems that combat infections and diseases. We do companion planting and we use natural repellents, such as garlic, bio-neem and various herbs to repel insect pests. We encourage the proliferation of beneficial insects, like ladybirds and wasps, that eat insects that damage our crops. Thanks to our natural environment and the absence of poisonous chemicals, our farm is also a refuge for thousands of frogs, toads and other creatures that help to control the insect population.
Our farm is very labour-intensive: we do all our planting, weeding and harvesting by hand and we employ about 15 people to cultivate about 5 hectares.
We have a careful crop rotation programme to ensure that our soil is never depleted of the nutrients that are vital for the good health of our crops and for the good health of our clients who eat them. We plant green manures on a regular basis so that we put more nutrients back into the soil than are extracted by the crops that we grow.
We have our own borehole that supplies about 15,000 litres of water per hour and we are able to irrigate about 5 hectares of land in the summer. This enables us to grow crops that need a lot of water during the long, hot summers, like lettuces, squashes and tomatoes. The quality of our borehole water is very good and we also use it as our drinking water.
Our farm was certified organic for many years, either by Afrisco or SGS. However, these agencies require the use of organic seeds and, in our opinion, this requirement is not reasonable in South Africa for several reasons. Firstly, in South Africa, organic seeds are frequently not available in the varieties that grow well on our farm. Secondly, the organic seeds that we want are frequently not available in the quantities that we need, or at all. Thirdly, the organic seeds that are available are sometimes of poor quality with low germination rates. And fourthly, they are often very expensive. This requirement to use organic seeds might be realistic in Europe where these seeds are available, but, in our opinion, it is not realistic in South Africa. We use organic seeds if and when we can, but otherwise we use commercial untreated seeds on our farm. We do not use treated seeds because they are treated with a poison to kill bacteria and we do not want this poison in our soil. We do not use GMO (genetically modified) seeds at all, as they are banned by all organic certification agencies and because we have no need to use them.