Getaway (South Africa)
Meet a Modern-day Farmer
THOMAS FRANKEN OF ROSEMARY HILL, TSHWANE
I live on the farm with my wife Theresa, daughters Isabella and Sofia, two Labs and a cat. My parents moved to the farm when I was five – it was 1978 and they came here to establish the Waldorf school. Extended family joined us over the years and now the second and third generations are getting more involved, especially on the accommodation side. We specialise in essential oils so we grow and distil rosemary, lavender, artemisia, rose geranium, mint and more. We also have a herd of Bapedi cattle (so lots of grazing), grow some veggies and have about 200 pecan trees. There is also a stable yard with about 35 horses which are used for outrides and lessons.
What’s the deal with Waldorf?
Organic (well, actually biodynamic) farming goes hand in hand with the Waldorf education since Rudolf Steiner, who founded the education system in 1919, also developed biodynamic farming methods. We believe in being responsible and doing business sustainably so we have always been an organic farm. We make our own compost from cow manure, garden waste and kitchen leftovers. We also have a nursery that produces the seedlings for the plants that get planted in the fields.
Cabins or cows?
Our hospitality activities started about 15 years ago, first with tea parties, then a coffee shop, then mountain-bike trails and eventually, weddings. More wedding guests wanted to sleep over, so we started growing the accommodation offerings. Our Stone Cottage was the first “fancy” unit revamped to serve as the bridal suite. This was the first time we consulted with a designer and actually got our creative juices flowing to consider the guest experience with beautiful views from a free-standing bath, or massive windows overlooking our little forest. The bug has bitten and we love trying out different things. Instagram and Pinterest have so many cool places featured that the flood of ideas just keeps coming. The fact that we’re so close to Joburg and Tshwane makes midweek “staycations” much easier. We now have 120 beds available all over the farm.
Did the pandemic push more people outside?
The pandemic was 100% responsible for our sudden growth. With travel restrictions, people were frustrated with not being able to travel so they started searching locally – and found us. Yes, they definitely want to get outside; the fact that we have hiking trails, horse rides, Segway tours and even just chilling in the gardens, definitely adds to the allure of coming out and spending time on the farm.