Spier Farm: South Africa’s Premier Organic Farm and Winery
The Jetsons had moving walkways that we’ve now seen come to life, including in the airport and on street tours in your favorite destinations. You can zip past the walking passengers while your bag trails behind you. How’s that for futuristic? If you’ve ever been on a segway tour in a major city, it’s another example of this mixture of technology once dreamed about and now integrated into real life. Segway tours are a quick and fun way to see a major city. They are battery powered, read: eco-friendly, compact and easy to maneuver. Imagine now that you’re gliding through a picturesque farm with a mountainous backdrop, free-range chickens waddling up to greet you and an organic vineyard producing exquisite wines. And when you have 620 hectares of land to cover, the segway comes in handy!
This is your experience at Spier Farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Spier is arguably one of the most well known wineries in the area and has many award-winning varietals. In 2011 Condé Nast Traveler World Saver Award recognized the estate as the top international destination ‘Doing it All’, from the winery and farm to the hotel and wedding venue. Known for their delicate pinotage and creative block collection, part of the prestigious Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trading Association.
But the wine is only a small part of the story at Speir. The farm is a place for sustainability and cultivation. Inspired by the cultural heritage and natural beauty of the land, Speir has made a great commitment to responsible farming practices and community involvement. As you weave in and out of the vineyard on your segway, you’ll learn about the impressive steps the company is taking.
After this basic knowledge and tour, you are then lead by expert guides who know the ins and outs of the estate. The first stop is through the indigenous River Garden to look at the native plants of the region. The regeneration of soil fertility in the garden and throughout the estate is achieved through methods such as high-density grazing and nutrient rich organic compost. Guests staying at the hotel on the grounds are welcomed to walk through the gardens and enjoy a meditative stroll.
After the gardens, the tour takes you to the chicken coop where the free range chickens are quite friendly – and photogenic. You can pick them up and take pictures with them! Next a stop at the Ying and Yang Water treatment plant. Spier installed a “pioneering centralized wastewater treatment plant, which is the embodiment of its approach to waste management”. 100% of its wastewater is treated and recycled back to the garden and grounds. They are also particularly focused on rehabilitating the riparian systems that flow through the farm, which has made them a leader in conservation and is part of their long-term strategy for environmental health. Another goal of Speir’s is to achieve a zero operational waste to landfill by 2017.
This organic winery takes holistic approach to growing grapes, but also has other sustainable efforts as well. The pasture raised beef and chickens fertilize the soil that the grapes are grown on, and they use no pesticides. The composting site where waste is turned into organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer boosts soil fertility in the vineyards and tree nursery. It all goes hand in hand in creating a balanced ecosystem, the top of their priorities.
Once the tour ends, you have the option of sampling the wine, cheese and fruits from the cellar. I recommend dining at Eight, a farm to table restaurant with a seasonal menu, or visit the Hoghouse BBQ and Bakery for low and slow cooked treats. There is also a significant focus on the arts and community involvement at Speir. The Craft Market allows you to buy local and artisan-crafted goods. Keep your eye out for many commissioned sculptures and paintings throughout the grounds and hotel. They host art festivals and performances year round and have an Arts Academy that offers employment-based training in mosaic art with a focus on nurturing previously disadvantaged artists. Some of the other notable social initiatives Spier promotes and takes part in are the Tree-preneur project which, “encourages marginalized individuals who are excluded from the formal economy in impoverished communities to grow indigenous trees in exchange for essential goods”. And the Pinotage Youth Development Academy which, “seeks to educate and employ disadvantaged youth in the wine industry”.
The list of environmentally friendly, socially conscious and responsibly driven projects that Speir is involved in continues to grow. They are truly a leader in Stellenbosch for their dedication and care to the environment and culture. For more information on booking a stay or taking your own segway tour during your visit to South Africa, visit http://www.spier.co.za/.