SUSTAINABILITY : THE DIFFERENCE
Farm 215 is one of the pioneers in sustainable hospitality in South Africa. The new guesthouse infrastructure has been designed to be compatible with the surrounding nature and to serve the primary purpose of farm 215: the conservation of a unique piece of the Cape Floral Kingdom on the basis of a small-scale sustainable operation. Guesthouse operations are done in accordance with strict “green” guidelines. Farm 215 is under Stewardship of Cape Nature and the reserve is a Protected Area.
Notes by architect Frederik Groos
“Nature-conscious hospitality calls for an architecture that balances the expectations of demanding travelers with a universal (and acute) need for balancing our needs with renewable resources. Developing farm 215 as a retreat for sophisticated (or simply curious) travelers in a still largely unspoilt environment in this remote fold of the Overberg was a challenge. It was essential to find the right scale and relation to the landscape and to get the right feel for the building language of the Overberg. With the abundance of sun, wind and a lot of tasty fresh water, sustainable architecture should not be a problem in theory. In reality though, it is an incredibly hard job to depart from the traditional pre-set solutions and still meet the expectations of the conscious, yet demanding traveler. Ultimately it is the human factor that is the most important. The architecture and landscape design aspires to harmonize with nature, but it is the use of it that does the job.”
All guesthouse infrastructure is situated in a corridor at the foot of the reserve. The indigenous vegetation around the buildings is left untouched. A ring of flowering succulents have however been planted immediately around the buildings which function as natural fire-breaks. New buildings blend in with the surrounding landscape.
is sourced from the mountain catchment in the reserve. Surplus water is routed back into the stream and wetland after being routed through sandbanks. There is zero downstream effect as a result of the water-use in the guesthouse. No chemicals are used for the filtration of the water and it maintains its golden-brown colour, typical of fynbos catchment areas when it comes out of the tap.
Solar-Power and solar water heating
are the dominant source of energy in the new buildings with only back-up water heating for rainy winter days being provided by gas. The fynbos suites are fully detached from the grid.
detergents are used. Water is sourced from the mountain-catchment and filtered without the use of any chemicals.
Waste is separated
and all glass, paper-products, plastic and cans are recycled. Biodegradable matter is recycled by using it as fertilizer in the garden and nursery. A minimum of rest-waste remains.
We buy everything we need locally (a radius of 60 km around the reserve). Only if certain products cannot be sourced locally, will we look further than the radius of 60 km. Practically all the vegetables are produced on the farm itself and the meat come from one of our neighbours. We maximize the amount of organic produce used in our kitchen. Non sustainable food products are not part of our kitchen (such as -regrettably- most of the seafish).
Wine is local and BWI
Our wine list only lists local wines and most of our wines are made on vineyards which are members of the Biodiversity Wine Initiative.
All our employees are locals
(from the area between Baardskeerdersbos and Stanford) and trained on the job. Remuneration and employment conditions are in accordance with all legal stipulations and the further requirements of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa.
Clearing of alien invasive vegetation and rehabilitation
When the reserve of farm 215 was established in 2002, step one was the restoration of the natural integrity of the land. The area where the fynbos suites are now proudly surrounded by pristine fynbos suites was a forest of alien invasive pines and large tracts of the land were disturbed and/or covered with alien invasive vegetation. Years of hard work have cleared streams, poisoned by the litter of invasive blue gum-trees, have rehabilitated wetlands, drained to serve unsustainable agricultural practice of the past and have brought eroded hills back to pristine fynbos covered slopes.
Limited wild flower harvesting (an essential local source of employment) of selected species is undertaken by the Flower Valley Conservation Trust on the basis of sustainable harvesting techniques as developed by ABI (Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative) and all organic material not required for the final product is cleared and left in the field.
Guests are part of the sustainable operation
The income from the Guesthouse is by far the main source of funding for the reserve and for the extra costs involved with the sustainable and responsible management techniques and infrastructure. Without tourism a place like farm 215 could not function.
Fynbos requires fire at certain intervals for pro-creation and recycling of nutrients. Too frequent fires are however detrimental for fynbos. In order to prevent fynbos fields which are not yet ready to be the victim of a wild fire, neighboring old fields are burnt in a controlled manner to create fire-buffers and to prevent wild fires to sweep all over the reserve.
Guests have access to the largest part of the reserve, but have to stay on the trails and have to move on foot or by horse and only during day-light (night is for the animals). Motorised transport is only allowed for conservation and management purposes. Human impact on the reserve, even in the immediate vicinity of the guesthouse, is only occasionally compromised by relocating a venomous snake or a bee nest dangerously close to a trail.
We are on a mission, but we do not want to be missionaries. Some of our guests specifically come to farm 215 because we endeavor to be a sustainable place, others for the riots of floral colours on the mountain and yet others simply for the space, seclusion and laid-back atmosphere of farm 215. We will not preach, but at the same time it will be clear for all our guests that a place like farm 215 derives its attraction predominantly from conservation. Without it, there would be no fynbos to show, no curtains of frog noises or bird-twitter to listen to, the water would taste bad (if we would still have it) and the hiking trails would be severely eroded. In our publications we stress the sustainable characteristics of farm 215.
Farm 215 is represented in the boards of the Walkerbay Fynbos Conservancy, the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative and the Uilkraal Estuary Management Forum.