Page 1 of 10
and other green facts
Page 2 of 10
Farm 215 is a private nature reserve and a small-scale sustainable guesthouse. The reserve is
also the base s...
Page 3 of 10
s u s t a i n a b l e a r c h i t e c t u r e
Notes by the architect, Jan Frederik Groos : “Nature-conscious ...
Page 4 of 10
from the vegetable garden of farm 215, or locally produced, in any case always fresh. The eggs
come from farm...
Page 5 of 10
c o n s e r v a t i o n o f n a t u r e
Several fynbos vegetation types are represented in the reserve includ...
Page 6 of 10
h o n e y b u s h t e a
Cyclopia genistoides is the name of a local plant which has been used by the Khoi and...
Page 7 of 10
animals). Motorised transport is only allowed for conservation purposes. Human impact on the
reserve, even in...
Page 8 of 10
*Initiating and co-executing “THE FYNBOS ROAD”, a project of different phases targeting
nature based tourism ...
Page 9 of 10
take care to extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray or cigarette bucket and not to smoke when
mobile and not to ...
Page 10 of 10
T H E R E S E R V E 2 1 5
t h e r e s e r v e
The private nature reserve was es...
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Farm 215 green facts - sustainable hospitality - accommodation with a low footprint


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This booklet contains Farm 215's green facts in a nutshell. Farm 215 is a sustainable destination and is not limited to tourism, but is active in reforestation, rehabilitation, is home to the CART (centre for appropriate rural technology) which is a test kitchen for new agricultural techniques and is one of the initiators of the Skills Exchange Cooperative (SEC) focusing on early childhood development and community support. As a pioneer in sustainable tourism farm 215 is not a run of the mill accommodation but offers an authentic experience with a low footprint. Farm 215 is located in the Southernmost area of South Africa, 180 km from Cape Town.

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Farm 215 green facts - sustainable hospitality - accommodation with a low footprint

  1. 1. Page 1 of 10 HOW WE MANAGE OUR FOOTPRINT and other green facts
  2. 2. Page 2 of 10 Farm 215 is a private nature reserve and a small-scale sustainable guesthouse. The reserve is also the base station of the African Horse Company, home to the Center for Appropriate Rural Technology (CART) and the first reforestation site of the Trees for Tourism program of the South African Forest Trust. Farm 215 is one of the initiators of the SEC, The Social Skills Exchange Cooperation. The reserve is a rare sanctuary for hundreds of floral species, many of which are threatened. S U S T A I N A B I L I T Y 2 1 5 THE DIFFERENCE a p i o n e e r i n s u s t a i n a b l e h o s p i t a l i t y 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 certified by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa and under Stewardship of Cape Nature. We place the integrity of the natural ecosystem around us in the first place and aim to keep our and our guests’ footprints as low as possible. As a result some things are different on farm 215 compared to a destinations which are operated on a traditional basis. o n a r o a d l e s s t r a v e l l e d When the reserve of 800 hectares was created by the purchase of two neighboring farms, this hinterland of the coastal Walker Bay area was still undiscovered by tourists and hardly known by locals (‘where dragons be”). The road accessing farm 215, earmarked by the Western Cape Province to be tarred in order to instigate local development on the basis of tourism, still meanders through a landscape showing both the social scars and the natural beauty of the past. The location was chosen to establish a remote destination in an unknown area instead of a place to stay on the beaten path. Before any of this could be realized, step one was the restoration of the natural integrity of the land. The area where the fynbos suites are proudly surrounded by pristine fynbos was a forest of alien invasive pines in 2002. Years of hard work have cleared streams, poisoned by the litter of invasive blue gum-trees and have rehabilitated wetlands, drained to serve unsustainable agricultural practice of the past. c e r t i f i e d b y F a i r T r a d e I n T o u r i s m S o u t h A f r i c a (FTTSA) The FFTSA certification label is an independent endorsement of fair and responsible tourism practice in South Africa.
  3. 3. Page 3 of 10 s u s t a i n a b l e a r c h i t e c t u r e Notes by the architect, Jan 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 harmonise with nature, but it is the use of it that does the job.” w a t e r The reserve of farm 215 is blessed with an abundance of water. The highest part of the reserve is a mountain catchment area which releases substantial amounts of water, even at the end of the dry period. This is due to the geological characteristics of the area and a pristine natural vegetation, but should not be taken for granted. The water for use in the guesthouse is sourced from a small feeder-dam 3km from the lodge. A pipe routes the water by gravity to the holding tanks, from which it is (again by gravity) transported to the filtration tanks and the buildings. Filtration is done by gravitational separation, sand and paper filters and no chemicals are added in the process. The result is pure and fresh drinkable water, but with a golden-yellow color. Used water, with the exception of the toilet outflow which is caught in a septic tank, is deposited in sand banks on top of the banks of the same stream from where it was sourced originally. Harmful detergents or other chemicals are not used on farm 215 and the sandbanks in combination with the naturally occurring restio beds is nature’s own flawless way to clean water. In this manner the downstream effect is practically zero. e l e c t r i c i t y The fynbos suites are not connected to the grid. Electricity is produced by solar panels on the roof and stored in batteries. There is a certain effect on the level of luxury: hair dryers cannot be used in the fynbos suites; the hot water kettle operates in an old fashioned slow manner. Only in the case of continuous occupation and several days of overcast weather, the batteries might get exhausted and the system needs to be charged with the aid of a generator. The dining area and the kitchen are mainly depending on solar power. Only the beverage fridge and the freezer run on classical Eskom electricity. The original homestead still depends on traditional electricity but water-heating is by means of solar panels. p r o c u r e m e n t & c u l i n a r y a f f a i r s Services and products are sourced locally (a radius of 80 km around the reserve). Only in the case that the specific product is not available in the area, we will succumb to buy goods from further away. We take pride in our kitchen. Where possible the ingredients are organic, either
  4. 4. Page 4 of 10 from the vegetable garden of farm 215, or locally produced, in any case always fresh. The eggs come from farm 215’s own chickens, the meat from our neighbor. But we restrict our kitchen as well. Wines are from the neighboring Lomond Wine Estate and a few other local vineyards which are all accredited by the Biodiversity Wine Initiative (BWI). BWI members are committed to maintaining a certain part of their land in its original natural state and to working on the basis of nature friendly production methods. So close to a working fishing village, we can still get most of the fish species swimming in South African seas. We are however also very aware of the plight of the seas. Practically none of the fish species can sustain present fishing pressure and some stocks are severely depleted and in real danger of becoming (locally) extinct. We endorse the Southern African Sustainable Sea Food Initiative and will never serve any fish which they have listed on either their red and orange lists. In practice this means that the chance that we will serve fish is very small. h u m a n p o w e r All our employees are locals (from the area between Baardskeerdersbos and Gansbaai) 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. All employees are hired on a permanent basis. Running a sustainable operation requires excellent employees. Cleaning only with biodegradable detergents is a harder job than with all kinds of aggressive chemicals. Having to deal with 6 garbage bins instead of one is tedious. An intrinsic water system depending on on-the-ground-filtration and gravity needs continuous maintenance and repairs at the most inconvenient moments. The four mini-solar electricity plants have a life of their own and need a lot of “love and care”. Clearing the reserve from alien invasive vegetation is a lot of hard work, but also requires an advanced knowledge of the indigenous vegetation. w a s t e Waste is separated and recycled. Paper, glass, plastic and cans are once a week transported to Gansbaai (22 km from the reserve) and deposited at the local recycling station. Excess food is eaten by the owners and employees. Organic waste, not fit for human consumption is recycled by the poultry or is used as mulch. Ash from the fireplaces and the woodstoves is used as fertilizer in the gardens. A minimum of rest waste remains. c e n t e r f o r a p p r o p r i a t e r u r a l t e c h n o l o g y (CART) The CART is located in the Koudeberg Valley of farm 215. The CART is a test-kitchen for the re- structuring of agricultural production systems and seeks to create awareness, education and implementation of sustainable farming technologies to bring agriculture back in harmony with nature. Run by THE two specialists in the field of permaculture and implementation of ground- breaking systems, the CART also regularly organizes courses in permaculture and sustainable techniques. The CART can be visited.
  5. 5. Page 5 of 10 c o n s e r v a t i o n o f n a t u r e Several fynbos vegetation types are represented in the reserve including the ultra-endemic Elim-fynbos and vast tracts of essential transitional fynbos vegetation. The importance of the reserve is acknowledged by Cape Nature which has entered into a conservation agreement with farm 215. It is also acknowledged by the Western Cape Conservation and Stewardship Association by awarding farm 215 with the Cape Fox Award for best management of land in the Western Cape. A full analysis of all plant species growing in the reserve will take many years and is ongoing. c l e a r i n g o f a l i e n v e g e t a t i o n When farm 215 was established as a reserve in 2002, vast tracts of the mountain area were pristine and hardly infested by alien invasive vegetation. The lowlands, lower slopes and valleys were however fully taken over by Australian gums, hakeas, myrtles and wattles and European pines. Alien vegetation clearing operations involved bulldozers, chainsaws, cutters, species- specific herbicides and a lot of stamina. It is an ongoing and costly job. Fortunately Cape Nature has funded part of the clearing costs for a year after a fire in 2006 that burnt 50’000 hectares in the area. The main part of the funding however comes from you, our guests. Around twenty percent of all the guesthouse income is spent for the benefit of the reserve. The clearing of stream-banks and wetlands is an especially rewarding job: streams transform from a narrow trickle to a steady stream and wetlands started to expand by themselves. r e h a b i l i t a t i o n Land cleared from alien vegetation sometimes revives itself in a surprising manner. Seedbanks of indigenous vegetation can be dormant for decades, and where this is the case we leave rehabilitation to mother nature itself. In some places though, the soil has practically become sterile as a result of countless years of overgrazing and subsequent invasion by alien vegetation. In these cases, we scatter appropriate local seed. In areas vulnerable to erosion we might speed the matter up by planting seedlings or cuttings. A damaged lowland wetland has been restored: ditches dug to serve unsustainable agricultural practice have been filled up and the route of the feeding stream has been restored and controlled fires have revived dormant seedbanks and restored the species-balance. r e f o r e s t a t i o n - t r e e s f o r t o u r i s m (tft) The lower part of the main “kloof” in the reserve of farm 215, which was infested with alien vegetation, is now the first reforestation site of the Trees for Tourism program of the South African Forest Trust. Over 13’000 indigenous trees have been planted out to create South Africa’s newest indigenous forest and many more will follow in the years to come. If you want to participate in this program, you can buy your own trees in what will become a pristine forest eco-system and will be protected for generations to come.
  6. 6. Page 6 of 10 h o n e y b u s h t e a Cyclopia genistoides is the name of a local plant which has been used by the Khoi and the earliest settlers for the brewing of the so-called honeybush tea. Though not widely known outside of South Africa, honeybush tea is growing in popularity, not in the least because of its health benefits. Most of the honeybush for the production of honeybush tea is still harvested in the wild. Farm 215 has started in 2012 with large scale propagation of honeybush plants. Thousands of honeybush seedlings have been planted out in degraded areas in the reserve and along the reforestation areas to function as fire-breaks for the juvenile forest. Farm 215 also propagates honeybush for delivery to neighbouring farmers. The mission is to create agricultural development in the area which is compatible with the sensitive surrounding nature. h o n e y & b e e - g a r d e n s Farm 215 produces its own honey for use in the guesthouse and for restricted sales in the area. Since South Africa is a net importer of honey (yes, that is weird), we intend to increase our honey production. Having too many bees in the reserve has however the un-desired effect that the bees will be in competition for the nectar with other (species specific) pollinators which could lead to a decline of viable seed in some floral species. As a consequence, bee gardens are being planted : confined areas which are planted with specific combination of (nationally) indigenous trees and shrubs which produce large quantities of nectar. This allows for concentration of beehives in small areas and restricts nectar competition. d a t a c o l l e c t i o n Great effort is placed on mapping the presence and distribution of plant species in the reserve. In the process two species have been discovered that are new to science and the presence of 50 red data species has been confirmed. Knowing the location of -especially threatened- plant species is essential in connection with controlled burns and the alien clearing regime. A selection of the most “sexy” plant species can be found on our picture website f i r e m a n a g e m e n t 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, selected old fields are burnt in a controlled manner to create fire-buffers and to prevent wild fires to sweep all over the reserve. c o n s e r v a t i o n p o l i c i e s Harvesting of wild flowers (an essential local source of employment) is limited and only allowed in accordance with the guidelines for the sustainable harvesting of wild flowers by the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative. 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
  7. 7. Page 7 of 10 animals). Motorised transport is only allowed for conservation 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. c o m m u n i c a t i o n 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. s k i l l s e x c h a n g e & c o m m u n i t y s u p p o r t The little hamlet of Baardskeerdesbos is a farming community and borders the reserve of farm 215. Through a lack of education and economical opportunities, people are faced with poverty and social problems. Early school drop outs, child neglect and a lack of education for young children have lead to unskilled youth with no job opportunities. Substance abuse is on the rise and therefore the community is faced with children that carry the effects of this lifestyle. Through the exchange of knowledge and the nurturing of the people around, especially children, we make sure that the greater vision of developing and maintaining the land over generations, in a natural way, is fulfilled. Farm 215, the CART, the African Horse Company and Lomond Wine Estate have teamed up to establish The Skills Exchange Co-operative which will serve as the vehicle for implementing our RSDP (Responsible Social Development Program). The RSDP will be facilitating the process of bringing over skilled and specialised volunteers and matching their skills with the needs of the community. The greatest needs are for construction and maintenance of infrastructure, financial management and general life skills, educational and teacher training, fundraising, special needs infant and toddler care, community and pre-school care, nutrition programmes and outdoor education. If you want to know more or wish to support this program, talk to us. i n t h e m i d d l e o f o t h e r s Farm 215 does not have an isolated approach on the reserve and its guest facilities. Farm 215 and its partner, the African Horse Company, want to play a constructive role in the wider area in relation to nature conservation and access and integration of local communities in local nature based developments. As a consequence, farm 215 is actively involved in various projects and associations: *Farm 215 is represented in the board of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) aiming to bring nature, established economical interests and local communities together in a non- conflictive manner;
  8. 8. Page 8 of 10 *Initiating and co-executing “THE FYNBOS ROAD”, a project of different phases targeting nature based tourism in the area, the first phase being a detailed map of the area paying equal attention to natural, cultural and tourism features in the area; * Being one of the initiators of the Trees for Tourism program, together with Serendipity Africa and Platbos Forest Trust; *Funding of erection and first operations of a restaurant in Masakhane serving traditional Xhosa dishes; *Member of the Overstrand Conservation Foundation, the civic watchdog against non- sustainable and rogue developments; * Board member of the Walker Bay Conservancy, which promotes the conservation of the natural and cultural diversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom in the Walker Bay, stretching from the estuary at Stanford in the West to Farm 215 in the East, by co-operative partnerships. S A F E T Y 2 1 5 THIS IS NOT ONLY ABOUT YOU Farm 215 is not a park but a nature reserve. Nature rules supreme and certain rules of behavior apply in the reserve in order to safeguard both your own interests and the interests of all creatures and plants in the reserve. s n a k e s The chance that anyone will see a snake during their stay or a hike is very small, but there are over 10 different species of snake in the reserve. Some are venomous and some are potentially lethal. If left alone however, it will not bother anyone. Our guests are asked to always walk with a torch when it is dark. The chance that a toad will be stepped on (and lethally flattened as a result) is far greater than that a snake will be under anyone’s feet. b a b o o n s “Don’t bother them and they will not bother you”. If lucky, hikers might encounter the local troop of baboons. They are still very natural and wild, which is good because it means that they will keep their distance from humans. We would like to keep it that way and instruct our guests never to try to attract the attention of a baboon and never ever try to feed a baboon or leave food in the field. f i r e The vegetation of the Cape Floral Kingdom is very prone to fire. One cigarette-butt can easily be the cause of thousands of hectares to burn down in a day. Our guests are warned to always
  9. 9. Page 9 of 10 take care to extinguish cigarettes in an ashtray or cigarette bucket and not to smoke when mobile and not to smoke anywhere in the field. t i c k s Ticks in the Western Cape are relatively harmless (as a rare consequence of a tick bite, you will suffer for 3 days from a flue-like illness). Please do not apply this rule for the whole of South Africa: higher up in the country, ticks can have serious health effects. f l o w e r s Look but do not touch. There are over 50 so called “red data” species in the reserve, meaning that these species are (critically) rare, endangered or vulnerable (their continued existence in the wild is under serious threat). If anyone would pick a flower of one of these species you he/she will contribute to its possible decline into extinction. Even if there are never-ending fields of a certain species, the respective species might only flower here and nowhere else. s p i d e r s There are numerous different spider species in the reserve and if it was not for them (and the insect eating plants of the Drosera family), smaller insects would bother us in huge numbers. Two species are known in the reserve which carry venom but have never been spotted in one of the guest quarters and will not be easily noticed anyway: they are very small. There is a fair chance a big brown spider will enter guest quarters, especially when it is raining. The aptly called Rain spider is harmless and it can stay where it wants to be. d r i v i n g i n a n d o u t Until you have reached the main gravel road, please drive slowly and leave the admiration of the surrounding nature and views to the person sitting next to the driver. The driver should watch the road and take care he/she will not run over a tortoise, terrapin, snake or other creature. Guests are recommended to avoid driving when it is dark since apart from a confused visibility there is an enhanced risk of antelopes and other wild animals suddenly crossing the road. h o r s e s The horses of the African Horse Company roam freely in the reserve and on occasion they will graze next to the guesthouse. Living as a natural herd and roaming freely, the horses are stress-free, very mild mannered and used to people, but these two rules must apply: do not walk close behind a horse and do not walk in between a foal and its mother.
  10. 10. Page 10 of 10 T H E R E S E R V E 2 1 5 WHERE HUMANS ARE OUTNUMBERED t h e r e s e r v e The private nature reserve was established in 2002 after the purchase of the two neighbouring farms: Portion 1 of farm 215 “Koudeberg” (Cold Mountain) and Remainder farm 215 “Hartebeeskloof” (Valley of the Hartebees). The 800 hectare reserve is a rare sanctuary for hundreds of plant species, an important local catchment area and an essential meeting place of different fynbos vegetation types, including the ultra-endemic “Elim fynbos” with several endangered plant species. The reserve of 800 hectares runs from close to sea-level at its lowest to 492m at its highest peak: “Perdekop”. Koudeberg used to be an indigenous flower farm and delivered conebushes and proteas to the cutflower markets. Hartebeeskloof was a struggling cattle farm. Where Koudeberg was pristine and relatively well looked after, Hartebeeskloof was neglected and –frankly speaking- a mess. A lot of clearing of alien vegetation and land rehabilitation had to be undertaken before we could even contemplate to open a nature retreat. p l a n t s a n d a n i m a l s Over 800 plant species are represented on farm 215, including 34 species of the Protea family, over 30 Erica species, more than 20 Orchid species, 16 Moraeas, 15 Gladiolus species and 50 “red data species” (species listed on the IUCN red data list to reflect that their continued survival in the wild is threatened). Peak flowering times are spring and autumn, but there are always many species flowering all year round. Due to the different habitats animals and birds are abundant in the reserve. A large tribe of baboons spends the night at the foot of the waterfall. Six different “bokkies” (antelope species) are resident or regular visitors. Bat-eared fox, genet, honey badger, cape clawless otter, caracal, porcupine and mongoose regularly leave visible traces and the movements of leopards in the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy is monitored by the Landmark Foundation. The rare Cape eagle owl and Black harrier both have raised chicks in the reserve for several consecutive years. The Black eagle keeps our hyrax population in check and a plethora of sunbirds and sugarbirds hop from Protea to Erica. Of the reptiles, you cannot fail to see the Rock agama, present in huge numbers between the rocks. When you are lucky, you may spot a snake (there are over 10 snake species in the reserve).