The story of Kleinvlei Farm is a captivating journey through time, deeply intertwined with the region’s history and Simbavati Cederberg Ridge’s owning family’s heritage.
A Legacy Born in 1807
Kleinvlei Farm, nestled within the picturesque Cederberg Mountains, has a history dating back to the arrival of Irish settlers in Clanwilliam in 1807. Clanwilliam itself stands as the 7th oldest town in South Africa. One of our owner’s, Anton’s ancestors, particularly Oloff Martinus Bergh, had explored this land in the late 17th century, marking the Bergh family’s connection to the Cederberg.
Among these settlers was William Parker, the leader of the Irish Settlers. He was granted a portion of land to farm, known as Kleine Valley, which is today’s Kleinvlei Farm. However, William Parker’s longing for the lush, rainy landscapes of his Irish homeland prompted his return, leaving behind a unique Mediterranean climate that the Cederberg is known for today. The Shaw family, among the settlers, chose to make Kleine Valley their home instead.
One of our scenic farm walks offered at Simbavati Cederberg Ridge takes you through Shaw’s Kloof, where the remains of their modest cottages can still be found. The settlers later relocated further down the valley, constructing a long, white-washed thatched house. It was in the 1840s that the Bergh descendants of Oloff Bergh returned to the area. They initially purchased a farm in the “Agter Pakhuis” area, on the other side of the Cederberg Mountains. Later, they moved to a farm atop Pakhuis Pass, where Cape Nature’s headquarters now stand. In 1907, the Bergh Family acquired Kleinvlei Farm, which remains in the family to this day. Over time, the original 1820s house was extended to become a spacious four-bedroom home.
Water, the Lifeblood of Farming
The success of Kleinvlei Farm, like many in the Cederberg, depends on its water supply rather than the size of the land. Our region receives less than 200mm of rain annually, classifying it as semi-arid. However, a river flows through Kleinvlei, making farming viable. Generations of Berghs have played a role in shaping the farm’s irrigation channels, which diverted the river to sustain our fruit orchards. Anton’s father, Dennis, built a substantial farm dam, enabling Dennis and Anton to expand the farm’s operations.
Tragedy struck in 2013 when the original 1820s thatched Cape Dutch homestead, where Anton’s widowed mother lived, was lost to a devastating fire. The thatched roof made the fire consume the house in just half an hour. While it was a heart-wrenching loss, we are thankful that no one was hurt in the fire. Anton’s mother chose to move into a smaller home, and we made the decision to build Simbavati Cederberg Ridge in place of the old farmhouse. It had long been our dream to showcase this little-known region through a lodge.
Farming on Kleinvlei Today
Our farm spans 3,000 hectares in the Cederberg area, and we primarily cultivate table grapes and citrus.
The harvest season runs from mid-December to the end of February. Speed is of the essence to pick, pack, and store the grapes once they ripen. Our grapes are exported to the northern hemisphere during their winter season when local production is limited. Producing high-quality table grapes involves meticulous care, including pruning the vines and shaping the bunches for a classic appearance. In peak season, we employ approximately 100 people to pick and pack the grapes.
The citrus harvest begins in April and continues through September. Our farm yields several types of oranges, each serving a distinct purpose, whether for consumption, juicing, or jam-making. The freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast is sourced right from our farm.
A Modern Approach to Farming
Today, farming is an industrial process, with cold stores and packing sheds taking the place of picturesque outbuildings. The original farmstead was not rebuilt in its initial location for this reason. Kleinvlei boasts four large cold stores, two packing sheds (one for citrus and one for grapes), and a makeshift air cooling system due to the sweltering heat. We also collaborate with overseas supermarkets, packing produce with their labels, or offer our own brand when dealing with wholesalers. Farm tours are a part of our offerings, and we extend support to Lemoenland pre-school, an infant school we established for the children of our farmworkers and neighboring farms. It is an ongoing testament to the sense of community and history that Kleinvlei Farm represents.
Discover more about Simbavati Cederberg Ridge: https://www.simbavati.com/lodges/cederberg-ridge/