Up the mountain from Piketberg not only waits a different climate, but also a delightful market
In late autumn, the arid, droughtstricken Swartland looks like an infinite sea of dust, but just wait until you turn off the N7 at Piketberg and surrender to the lovely twists and turns of Versfeld Pass. Follow the signs on the last Saturday of every month (except December) to Jeremy and Riëtte Bryant’s ecofriendly farm Kruistementvlei. Even though the drought is just as severe on top of the mountain, about 440m above the brown valley floor, things look considerably greener up here, and the apple and pear trees are heavy with fruit. On a clear day you can see all the way to Table Mountain and St Helena Bay on the West Coast.
For the past eight years, the farm Kruistementvlei has been the place where local farmers and entrepreneurs gather in the shade of the trees to sell products that give new meaning to the label “farm fresh”. With only a few exceptions, every person behind a table is the one who cultivated, made or baked the goods they’re selling. Here, you’ll find superfresh organic almonds and home-made almond butter with a touch of honey; pancakes; freshly baked sourdough bread; pizza and indigenous plants; pomegranates, prickly pears, peppers and chillies; quinces, granadillas, citrus, cupcakes, cakes and biscuits; old-fashioned brooms made of besembos; jewellery; wooden products and furniture; jam and other preserved treats; boerewors and biltong; all kinds of products made of springbok meat; Chinese and Indian snacks; vegetarian curry; roosterkoek and vetkoek; good coffee; sandwiches; raw honey; olives and olive oil; and second-hand books. And then there is the brilliant local band that takes care of the entertainment.
“This is a community market in the true sense of the word,” says Riëtte. “And it is aligned to the sustainable systems we’re trying to establish on the farm, sometimes with the help of young people from all over the world who apply to learn and help out via the website workout.info.” Permaculture, vermiculture, dry-composting toilets, compost-heated water, community projects, youth development, a library... and, once a month, a small, authentic farmer’s market. • Take cash, since there are no creditcard facilities. You can spend the weekend on the mountain – book at Kruistementvlei ( ksvfarm.co.za), Tamarak ( Tamarak Self-Catering Accommodation), Retreat Guest Farm ( retreatguestfarm.co.za) or Hebron Estate ( hebronestate.co.za). ksvfarm.co.za Piket-Bo-Berg Farmers Market firstname.lastname@example.org 022 914 5652 >
ABOVE The cheerful tunes at the market are supplied by a group of local musicians who call themselves The Pickard Band, because their members include three Pickard brothers, all from Piket-Bo-Berg. From left is Cobus Pickard, Bradley Goliath (on drums), Aubrey Blaauw, Joseph Pickard (just visible behind the speaker) and Connie Pickard on lead guitar. The self-taught musicians have been playing together for more than 10 years and often performs at parties and weddings. Call Connie on 076 164 2955 to book them for an event.
ABOVE Riëtte Bryant and her husband, Jeremy, own the almond and guest farm Kruistementvlei, where the market has been held for the past eight years. The Bryants follow permaculture principles, make compost and worm compost, and use a dry composting toilet system (a novelty for some marketgoers). Riëtte is kept busy on market day and no longer has a stand of her own, but she does make time to shop.
ABOVE At Mark and Charmaine Howard’s stand you can taste and buy all sorts of interesting teas. Hailing from the UK, they settled in Piketberg in October 2017 and opened The Tea Specialists on Hoof Street. They also run a website allowing you to place orders online. theteaspecialists.co.za The Tea Specialists 079 096 6216 ABOVE Ghea Frans from Citrusdal, the neighbouring town beyond Piekenierskloof Pass, at Bosberg Organic Meat & Biltong’s table, offering springbok meat in every form you can imagine. “You’d have to search high and low to find better biltong,” she enthuses. bosbergorganicmeatbiltong.co.za Bosberg Organic Meat and Biltong
ABOVE Versfeld Pass with its dozens of switchbacks offers a magnificent view of the Swartland Valley, currently burdened heavily by a serious drought. In the distance, at the foot of the mountain, lies the town of Piketberg. LEFT Eric and Michelle Havenga of the water-bottling company De Berge often stop by at the market with their daughters, Elizabeth and Chaya (right).