Waterkloof Wine Estate: Sustainable Farming

Waterkloof Wine Estate is tucked away in the hills of Somerset West in the Western Cape. Known for its beautiful wines and award winning restaurant, their lesser known feature is the extent of their sustainable farming program. Every aspect of production is included in their sustainability programme from their bio-dynamic vineyards to their ‘restaurant in the sky’, which also contributes to environmental protection. So how does a farm that uses absolutely no municipal water run? Apart from farming in strict accordance with moon rhythms and the lunar calendar, Waterkloof also focuses on the following areas: WATER Water: Waterkloof has it’s own spring that supplies the farm with water. The spring water is purified and used in the wine making process, for drinking, in the restaurant and for drip irrigation in the vineyards. ANIMALS Horses: Waterkloof uses numerous animals within its farming methods to help conserve the environment including Percheron horses. Well known for their “horse power”, each of the farm’s Percheron horses are able to cover up to 8 hectares (approximately 11 soccer fields) of the farm to plough, carry compost and containers of grapes. Six-strong horses plough, compost, spray and harvest the farm instead of tractors. The Percheron horses are also used to remove weeds from underneath the vines, keeping Waterkloof chemical free without damaging the root or soil systems. Sheep: The farm is home to a flock of Dorper sheep who are excellent weed controllers! Their droppings are also a rich source of nitrogen which feeds the soil. They are moved around every day and thus enrich the farm evenly. Cows: Waterkloof is home to numerous Jersey cattle. Their manure is used in biodynamic preparations. Birds: The farm’s chickens enjoy a life in chicken mobiles – moveable chicken houses – where they lay their organic eggs in the straw-filled nests. They are also free to run throughout the vines keeping the weevil population under control. Perches for birds of prey have also been installed in order to control the rodent population. Earthworms: Waterkloof created its own earthworm farm from old wine barrels and uses the earthworm tea in the vegetable and herb gardens. SYSTEMS Permaculture: Companion planting is employed in the Waterkloof vegetable garden. The plant beds are rotated every planting season. The veggies are used directly in the restaurant kitchen. Composting: The compost produced on the farm is vital in putting life back into the soil at Waterkloof. Bacterial and fungal orientated compost assists the vines with absorption of nutrients and helps with water retention in the soil. Waste: Even the organic waste products in the cellar and restaurant kitchen are composted. Clearing Foreign Plants: Approximately 45 hectares of Waterkloof have been cleared of alien invader species allowing indigenous plants to grown and thrive. Waterkloof took their eco efforts even further when they registered their conservation areas with Cape Nature as part of their voluntary Conservation Stewardship project. This allows the estate to measure the benefits associated with sustainable farming, energy and water ‘avoided costs’ and the impact of healthy soils, good water infiltration, enhanced productivity and pest control. In 2008 Waterkloof was one of ten estates to be awarded a BMI Champion status due to their proven track record of environmental responsibility. = WIN If you’d like to visit Waterkloof Wine Estate to experience the Biodynamic vineyard tour followed by a Healey cheese and Waterkloof Wine tasting, then either comment on the Waterkloof blog post picture, on the Sustainable.co.za Facebook page, about how sustainability interests you, or follow Sustainable.co.za on Twitter and retweet this post. Waterkloof Estate is located outside Somerset West on the M9 Sir Lowry’s Pass Village Road. Competition runs from Monday 30th of June to Wednesday 9th of July 2014. The winner will be announced by Friday the 11th of July.