Fair Trade Tourism. – Dating back to 1723, Jan Harmsgat is today a five star country house with ten rooms in the manor house, renovated slave quarters and outbuildings. Proudly adopting Fair Trade practices, I am walked and talked through the surrounds by Manager Gerda De Lange who has worked here for eight years. Her passion for this precious place which is located just outside historic Swellendam, is infectious.
There are five luxury rooms, four standard and a honeymoon suite which sprawls under the thatch; stand alone oval baths and comfy couches add elegance to the delicate touches and comfortable amenities. The 14-metre salt water swimming pool sees guests relaxing as they soak up the sun.
You’re invited into a slower pace of life, one where fruit, nut and olive trees, as well as fresh farm air, offer their good company.
Meals are served with charm and traditional flair in the dining room, it’s glass wall looking towards the garden. But before you’re seated for dinner, try one of their signature pomegranate martinis and the home grown nuts roasted in paprika. Both excellent.
Talking Fair Trade, Gerda and her Assistant Manager Jonathan tell me how Jan Harmsgat are leading by example with their numerous projects and carefully guided policies. Recycling, composting, involving children from the local school in the establishment of the garden, educating them in the impact that litter has on the environment, good healthy and eating.
Where they can they support Fair Trade products. For example coffee, wine, amenities. They adopt an eco-friendly approach by switching off lights, using energy saving bulbs and minimising printing. There is ongoing training, while I was there it was a wine course, is really uplifting the staff.
They buy local as much as possible, encourage water be drunk from the tap and not a bottle, minimise their trips into town by car-pooling and spread the importance of taking care of the environment, staff and guests in the best possible way.
Gerda says that Jan Harmsgat feels real benefits from their Fair Trade association. Not only in the guidance that it offers but in the business that it brings though the specialist Fair Trade itineraries that are marketed to travelling groups wanting to support sustainable businesses. A business with ethics, one where doing the right thing, doesn’t compromise on luxury.
Dining room in the old manor house.
Stable door, now guest rooms.
Personal touches and succulent beauty.
The view across the valley towards the mountains.
Gerda took me up to the top of the farm where the pomegranate plantation meets the wild land that is home to the blue wildebeest.
There are ten staff members at Jan Harmsgat, all but one live on the farm. They are all from the local community and have and do undergo regular training to enhance their skills.
We visited their well kept homes next to the dam, where most keep veggies gardens. Here little Charnee (daughter on chef Jo-Anne and the assistant manager Jonathan) helps tend the patch.
Jan Harmsgat supplement their fresh produce from there and the veggie garden that they keep, only buying in what is necessary.
Some of the staff fishing on the dam as the sun sets.
Tree lined lane leading up to the hill, between vineyards and fruit orchards.
Pomegranate growing, look at that lovely healthy making thing!
Mountain bikes are available for exploring the farm.
The all-heart team that looks after you.
As I settle into my time on the farm and walk in the garden, I’m joined by the resident peacocks. Its mating season and the males strut their stuff and fan their impressive iridescent tail feathers, doing their best to draw attention to themselves.
Magnificent as they are, my focus soon returns to the understated luxury, gentle charm and genuine characters of Jan Harmsgat and its people. This is feel good travel, luxurious country-living, a place that you want to remain in.
Read about my other Fair Trade experiences here: #FTT10YearBirthdayCampaign.