The Elgin Agritourism Route
The Elgin Agritourism Route
The Elgin Agritourism Route is the first Agritourism Route in South Africa and presents an opportunity to sustainably grow Elgin’s existing tourism potential. The leveraging of the strengths of collective marketing of agritourism offerings/services has been successful worldwide, especially in Italy, Canada and New Zealand. The benefits include increasing the length of stay; offering a wider variety of activities and distributing economic benefits across a larger spatial area.
The Elgin valley is encircled by mountains, 70 km southeast of Cape Town, just beyond the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The Valley is one of the more intensively farmed districts of South Africa and produces approximately 60% of the national apple crop. In the 1980’s the Elgin valley farmers started growing vines successfully and the area is now South Africa’s coolest climate wine growing region, largely due to the high altitude of the Valley.
Apart from the focus on an Agricultural Economy, Elgin has an interesting agricultural history. Grabouw, the town in the Valley, was founded in 1856. My Parents were Farm Managers of Palmiet River Farm, owned by one of the Fruit Pioneers, Kathleen Murray, who planted her first apple orchard in 1915 at the age of 24. Kathleen started without any farming experience and without the necessary finance, but she was fiercely determined. Other Pioneers included Sir Antonie Viljoen, the Moltenos and the Moodies. Included in the Route is the Elgin Apple Museum which documents the history of the valley.
I have been fortunate to witness the development of the Elgin Valley into a multi-activity tourist destination. Today there is the Elgin Valley Market in a converted old apple warehouse in a railway-side setting. A regular steam train service operates between Cape Town and the Elgin Valley Market, an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. Each of the wineries have their own unique tastings which attracts a large following of regular wine buyers.
The advantage of the Elgin Agritourism Route is that there are many different accommodation offerings for visitors to extend their stay into a relaxed holiday break. I have been particularly impressed at the first Cycle Hotel in Africa. There are bicycles everywhere on the walls of the accommodation as Elgin has one of the foremost mountain bike routes in South Africa. Cycling along farm roads in this beautiful valley is a must. There are other attractions for the more adventurous and extreme-minded youngsters such as the Cape Canopy Tour, Suicide Gorge, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking.
For many of us who prefer a more relaxing visitor experience, a visit to South Hill Farms is a must. Kevin and Sandy King are the owners of this spectacularly situated farm and their attention to detail in every aspect of their agritourism experience is exceptional. Apart from their delicious wines, they offer luxury accommodation, a function & wedding venue, an art gallery and a restaurant that serves Country Tapas and Platters.
The reason for the continued success of the Elgin Agritourism Route is their understanding of how important it is to reinvent a Destination Brand. Events play an important role in their Annual Calendar, including the 2019 Elgin Cool Wine & Country Food Festival, the Overberg Wedding Fair, several cycling and trail run events, and the Elgin Open Gardens Festival.
Agritourism Routes are successful because all Agritourism farms have to be working farms that agree to a code of conduct/standards, so visitors know what to expect. This is a world-wide USP of Agritourism. Agritourism Farms are recognised by their signage – an Agritourism logo and the name of the farm. Agritourism Routes include sub-sectors, for example, a Heritage route or a Cultural route, and this differentiation is important because visitors have specific interests and specific needs. Agritourism as a category is increasing world-wide as visitors seek unique experiences at good value for money prices. The farmers in the Elgin Valley run farming businesses and understand the importance of working together to create a destination.
Having grown up on a farm in Elgin, an area I absolutely love for its beauty, serenity, varied activities and genuine hospitality, I am so appreciative that I was given the opportunity of growing up on a farm, eating fresh produce directly from the soil and how beauty exists in simple things. Agritourism is a wonderful opportunity for modern city dwellers to get closer to nature, enjoy the farm life and to appreciate where our food comes from. As Albert Einstein said “Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Written by Jacqui Taylor.