There is a magical apple and pear farm outside Villiersdorp in the Cape where a special climate offers quite unique conditions for growing fruit. Fredo knows the Theewaterskloof Estate well and has visited the ‘orchards on the mountain’ several times in the past.
That is why Fredo was very interested to note that this estate is now part of the Capespan Group, after having changed hands several times in the past. No doubt South Africa’s leading fruit export and marketing group will take it to new levels in future.
Theewaterskloof Estate lies on the mountain that forms the start of the Riviersonderend range. Below the farm the massive Theewaterskloof Dam lies in the valley and water from this dam is supplied over a vast region to agriculture and household use in the Southern Cape. Below the dam the Riviersonderend (River without end) snakes down towards the town of Riviersonderend, a well-known town on the N-2 leading out of Cape Town towards the Garden Route. This river seems to disintegrate once it passes Riviersonderend, hence the name, and its waters somehow ends up in the Breede River.
Riaan Botha, at the time General Manager of Theewaterskloof Estate back in the 1990’s, once told Fredo that the farm on the mountain is unique because, unlike the rest of the valley near Villiersdorp, and in fact the rest of the Western Cape’s fruit regions, most of the rain occurs in the spring and early summer. “When the Southeaster starts blowing in Cape Town, it swings in the clouds from the Southern ocean which drifts over the mountain and brings rain. This is why this beautiful place on the mountain has such a unique climate.”
Capespan says Theewaterskloof Estate is a premium farm with 300ha of pome fruit under production. The farm produces apples, pears and plums.
Previously, the farm at one stage belonged to the Colors Group, that innovative South African export company which emerged in the South African fruit industry after deregulation in 1997. Sadly, this once flag bearer in the South African industry is no longer in existence. It is however perhaps fitting that the mantel of protecting and developing the heritage of the ‘farm on the mountain’ now falls on the Capespan Group, a company not only respected here in South African, but internationally.
Fredo also had an interest in Threewaterskloof Estate for another reason. Under the leadership of the Colors Foundation pioneering educational work was done on the farm, with incredible results which benefited the farm community. Lessons learnt here are being applied on many other farms.
The people living on South Africa’s fruit farms have in most cases been living there for generations. Unlike the over-crowded townships around the cities where there is no real community life to speak of, the people of Theewaterskloof Estate have been living in a tranquil and safe environment, benefitting from these educational programmes which one do not really find in the cities.
Fredo, along with another well-known fruit personality, the ever impressive Louis Kriel, established the Unifruco Foundation back in the 1990’s. This later became the Capespan Foundation. Recently Fredo wrote about the various socio-economic and social community development programmes, which are referred to as ‘Blue Hand – we care’ initiatives, which is done under the guidance of the Capespan Foundation. From humble beginnings this has become a huge catalyst for development and social change and Fredo is particularly proud that he could be part of the founding of such an organisation.
No doubt the people of Theewaterskloof Estate will also be touched by the ‘Blue Hand – we care’ initiative and that the ‘farm on the mountain’ will forever be part of the Cape fruit heritage.