Whether you are slowly drifting between towns on a Sunday afternoon or powering your way from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the N1, farm stalls are always a welcome sight on the horizon. There is something just so typically, and wonderfully South African about them with their unique selection of goods. Favourites from biltong to cookies via for shelf space with homemade bric-a-brac, preserves, breads, antique signs and fresh fruit and veg. To celebrate these quintessential road trip establishments we have put together a list of our absolute favourites.
Stellenbosch, Western Cape
Lying in the shadow of the beautiful Hottentots Holland Mountains, on the R44 between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, this farmstall is aptly named. You certainly can’t miss it, as the surrounding strawberry fields are guarded by scarecrows of all shape, size and colour. We visited Mooiberge farm to pick our own strawberries – it’s a delight for children and adults, particularly when the afternoon sun draws the fragrance out of the succulent berries. Inside the farm shop, we were spoiled for choice when it came to filling our baskets with treats. Besides the dried peaches, apricots and nectarines, we
found bottled quail eggs from Joubertina, Die Ware Jakob pickled onions, raw fynbos honey from the West Coast, and olives and olive oil from Robertson, as well as Brandslang witblits and Boegoe brandewyn.
While some of us went to inspect the cellar for a selection of fine wines from local neighbouring estates, I was more interested in the boereseep on these shelves. Not only does it remove all stains from clothes, it moistens and softens your skin. The founder of Mooiberge farm, Mendel Zetler signed an agreement in 1915 to supply a buyer from Paarl with ‘4 000 pounds of strawberries at two and five eights pence a pound, to be delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’. The price may have changed but the strawberries are still sweet. Open daily 08h00-18h00. – Liz McKenzie
Bathurst, Eastern Cape
Country markets like this one are for more than just buying delicious food directly from the producers. They are social occasions, where you can catch up on news and community events, and meet friends for coffee and a bacon-and-egg roll or sweet treat. Live musos often add to the chilled vibe with soundtracks that complement the local bird song. The Bathurst Farmers Market has been open on Sunday mornings come rain or shine for more than 20 years.
It takes place beside the village Main Road at Just Off Centre Art Studio, and part of its charm is the lush garden lovingly tended by artist Sandra Thomas, complete with jungle gym for the kids. If you want farm eggs and butter, it’s best to get there early. Ubiquitous pineapples, zesty lemons, crunchy sweet potatoes and leafy green spinach regularly find their way into my shopping basket, and in the right season, there are finds like custard apples and citrons.
The smell of fresh, home-baked speciality breads, quiches and muffins make them hard to resist, and there’s no shortage of preserves and jams to spread on them. Local talent shines in the craft stalls where you can buy anything from fine jewellery and beaded fruit bowls to cheery placemats, handbags and crocheted tops. Open Sundays 09h00-12h00. – Marion Whitehead
Hermanus, Western Cape
Local support is testament to the quality of Hermanus Country Market. From books to beads and cookies to clothing, find most of what you need (or want) at this Saturday morning event – and be tempted to take home a few delicacies too. Popular with families, the children and dogs add to a lively atmosphere where musicians playing favourite melodies had us bopping to the beat.
There’s lots of gourmet food to sample, including bumper breakfasts, tasty tea treats and lavish lunches, as well as local wine and craft beer. Started in 2006 by Liza van Coppenhagen, and now situated at the Hermanus Cricket Club, this farmers market is a local landmark and, for some, a weekend ritual. “We are as down to earth as possible, keeping the traders local, the goods handmade and the wines, ciders and beers all from the area.
The market is rustic and is complemented by the beauty of the mountain behind us,” says Liza. Open Saturday 08h00-12h00, and Wednesday evening during peak season. – Olivia Schaffer
Citrusdal, Western Cape
If for no other reason than to gaze at the unimpeded view of the Renosterhoek Valley at the top of Piekenierskloof Pass before you get to Citrusdal on the N7, this is worth the stop. Kardoesie, which means ‘little paper bag’ in Afrikaans, is aptly named because there’s a large range of home-made goodies to tempt you into a padkos purchase – nougat, brownies, biltong, dadelballetjies (date balls) and marshmallows, as well as a for-later selection of jams, marmalades, konfyt, and fynbos honey.
In the heart of citrus country, in season it’s a cornucopia of oranges, lemons and naartjies ripe from the orchards, as well as a variety of dried fruit and nuts year-round. Another popular seasonal speciality (from around May to October) are fresh waterblommetjies, and, for the health-conscious, there’s a good stock of buchu and kankerbos teas. If you have time for breakfast (served all day), lunch or tea, the meat pies are highly recommended, washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice, and their famed skuinskoek, a sort of sideways bread made from deep-fried mosbolletjie dough, brings people back again and again.
The farmstall was opened in 1997 as a way of selling excess farm produce, but such has been the response that the mandate seems to have changed from surplus to sumptuous. If you have time to stay even longer, there’s a campsite and self-catering chalets on the property – and for dog lovers, a chance to meet Jessie, the resident, four-legged front-of-house. Open Monday to Saturday 08h00-17h00, Sunday 12h00-17h00. – Nancy Richards
Bot River. Western Cape
Tucked away from the road and partially hidden by the shade of gum and pine trees, Vogel Valley Farm Stall is a long-time favourite among Overberg locals. Avoid missing the little gem by keeping alert as you travel along the R43 between the Bot River and Betty’s Bay turn-offs.
This charming farm stall has a variety of goodies suitable for padkos, a picnic or a hostess gift. You’ll find locally produced jams, cheeses and butter, as well as biltong, dried fruit, nuts and, of course, sweets – all reasonably priced. I can never resist the home-made fudge and my partner always leaves with more than one stick of droëwors. We welcome that it’s open every day, and you are guaranteed a warm greeting from Margie and Jacob behind the counter as you enter. They will happily answer questions regarding the produce, and have an in-depth knowledge of the district. Once you know it’s there, it’s one of those places that keeps calling you back. Open Monday to Sunday 09h00-17h00. – Olivia Schaffer
Kommetjie, Western Cape
Look out for this bright and friendly, family-owned farm stall on Kommetjie Road, Sunnydale. Well-known to the locals, it
was established more than 35 years ago by Anthony Roy Rodgers as Rodgers Fruiterers, selling fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the farm. Three years ago, Rodgers blossomed and grew into a foodie venue and farmstall when the family converted the back of the shop into a relaxed and comfortable eatery in memory of matriarch Angeline Rodgers, who dreamed of owning a coffee shop.
While son Michael became more involved in helping his father buy fresh produce, three of the five Rodgers daughters put their energy into the farmstall, building on its reputation established in previous years by sibling Merle. Oldest daughter Michelle runs the coffee and milkshake bar and oversees the fresh produce and deli sections, which are housed in the front of the shop, with stock ranging from Durban spices to artisanal bread.
Mary-Ann, a qualified chef, is in charge of the Nourish Hut, which turns out fresh juices, smoothies, schwarmas, farm-style breakfasts, toasties and gourmet burgers. Melanie has the Sweet Savoury Symphony, selling pancakes, waffles, samosas and curries served with rotis or rice, adding an unusual and authentic Indian flavour to the farmstall. At the end of each month, The Peach Pip draws visitors for their Sunday roast.
Kids keep themselves entertained in the outside play area or at the many small aquariums indoors. Regular events include reptile shows, movie nights and live bands. Open Monday to Friday 07h30-18h30, Saturday 08h00-18h00 and Sunday 08h00-15h00. – Ron Swilling
Clocolan, Free State
Situated just outside the small town of Clocolan on the R26, The Cabin farm stall is easily recognised by the old, rusty car (now a chimney) on the top of its roof. The shop is full of beautiful decor, handmade clothing and accessories, as well as locally made treats like fudge, toffee and nougat.
We couldn’t pass on the salted caramel macadamias and cherry-and-almond nougat, so they joined us for the ride home. There’s also an extensive range of ‘ou goed’ and ‘mooi goed’ for antique lovers. If you’re going nowhere slowly, settle into a seat at one of the outside tables for a bite to eat. The three-cheeses and the rib-and-bacon pizzas were delicious. While you wait for your meal, nibble on popcorn in a potjie (the new-age breadbasket, it seems), and let the kids play on the grass embankment, see-saws and old motorbikes.
Pop into the other shops next door and treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind painting, bath salts and soaps, or even a quality down duvet and pillows from Ficksburg’s Ember Down – must-haves to survive an Eastern Free State winter. Open Monday to Saturday 08h00-17h00, Sunday 08h00-16h00. – Leigh Hermon