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Big spaces, small communities - Citrusdal on The Real Food Trip

Story by Deni Archer

Tough terrain, caring people

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The Cederberg captures the imagination of many who are lucky enough to spend some time there. It is a truly rugged place – rocky outcrop after rocky outcrop pepper the expansive landscape and, during the dry months at least, it is hard to imagine this place being home to much beyond the hardiest of creatures. But when you look closer, it is – porcupine, baboons, antelope, cobra, and dassies (amongst others) proliferate, caracul and honey badger are well known, and the endangered cape leopard prowl through conservation corridors. And of course, people live here too - and with them, food.

In contrast to the stifling environment (it can reach unbearable temperatures of 50 degrees celcius at times) the people we met were incredibly hospitable. Our first experience in the area gave us a chance meeting with Salome Benade. She runs The Grapevine Coffee Shop on the main road in Citrusdal, a sweet little place with amazing home baked goods. We camped there for a few hours to do some work and refresh ourselves, and Salome was incredibly accommodating despite our gear cluttering up her delightful shop. Once we got talking to her she explained her philosophy, “I’ve decided that no matter how awful I feel inside, I must always wear a smile. We only have one chance to make an impression on people and you just never know who you are going to meet.” This seemed to set a trend for our experience of the area - everyone we met from then on mirrored this warm and generous attitude.

Bringing the community together

There’s a strong sense of community building in the area, despite the relatively vast distances between farms in the area. People like Theresa Burton and Steve Oldroyd are getting their hands dirty to this end. Steve and his wife Caro, who relocated back from London a few years ago with their four children, run Hebron – a bed and breakfast location with a coffee shop and restaurant. Apart from catering high quality meals for their guests and passersby, they host a dinner evening for locals. Steve prides himself on successfully introducing new foods into a relatively conservative farming community, and has a growing appreciation of the characters and traditions of the area.

Theresa, who is also a migrant to the area from Cape Town (along with her brother and parents who all now farm separately around the area), is also passionate about growing the community. She and Steve are both actively involved in getting the Citrusdal Farmers' Market going. Much like the nearby market in the Piket-Bo-Berg, their market is essentially about bringing the members of the community together regularly at a common meeting place. While challenging at times, the market is slowly growing and they welcome all local produce, from “tannies with cakes” to local olive oils, Steve’s breads and meat products, flowers and organic veggies.

Transformation in progress

There’s certainly more happening here than meets the eye – and this area has been earmarked by provincial government as a tourist development area. So even if getting lost in the truly magnificent Cederberg mountains is not your thing, don’t write the Citrusdal area off your places to visit. You’ll likely to be pleasantly surprised by what’s hiding in the nooks and crannies. We’re definitely heading back there this winter – we’re told the tindery landscape transforms into a lush green valley surrounded by snow capped mountains. We can’t wait.

Theresa Burton and Steve Oldroyd, and Steve's daughter Ruby - Theresa and Steve work together to organise the Citrusdal farmers market, first Saturday of each month

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Rugged. The view from Tierhoek wine farm's 60 year old Grenache vineyards

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The tindery summer plains of Citrusdal

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