The Warm Bokkeveld

At Source Handmade Foods (Pty) Ltd is situated on Koelfontein farm, which in turn is found on the Gydo Pass between Prince Alfred’s Hamlet and the Koue Bokkeveld in the Boland. This area is known as the Warm Bokkeveld or the Ceres valley. It is often described as the Eden of the Cape or the Switzerland of South Africa for its scenic beauty. The district can only be accessed via spectacular mountain passes and extends to the edge of the Karoo.

Its inaccessibility at first hindered the Bokkeveld’s progress. The first pass to Ceres was built by Jan Mostert in 1765. It wasn’t exactly built for joyrides – one section was so steep that wagons had to be dismantled and carried over the mountain in pieces. And then in the mid-1800s Michell’s Pass was built, laying the foundation for agricultural development in the Bokkeveld. It was also an important route to the gold and diamond fields.

About the same time, the village of Prince Alfred’s Hamlet was taking shape around the farms in the area, including Koelfontein. JC Goosen divided up his farm into ninety plots and sold them off, effectively establishing an agricultural settlement. Prior to this the town of Ceres had developed on the south-western corner of the valley along the banks of the Dwars River. The opening of Michell’s Pass in 1848 led to the establishment of the village at the first outspan after travellers made the passage into the valley.

Today Ceres is synonymous with fruit production. It is with good reason the town is named after the Roman goddess of fertility – the soil in the valley is remarkably fertile and has made this area the largest deciduous fruit growing region in South Africa. Fresh fruit from the district is marketed both locally and internationally, as are other products such as fruit juices, dried fruit, potatoes and onions.

Ceres is a popular tourist destination. Between December and April during fruit-picking season visitors often tour orchards and fruit-packing houses. Trout fishing is also popular – the Dwars River forms some spectacular pools and rapids that are ideal for the sport. And in winter, dramatic snowfalls on the higher mountains are a perennial draw card for visitors.

The Ceres district is a nature-lover’s paradise. And this beautiful valley carved out of a mountainous landscape is where the people of At Source Handmade Foods are very happy to live and work and play.

Koelfontein Farm

Koelfontein was first farmed by the Conradie family in 1832 and has been faithfully entrusted from one generation to the next until the present day. Handri and his brother Zulch took over the farming business from their father in 2002. Zulch has since decided to follow his passion and answer the call of the wild to enter the fly-fishing and luxury wilderness tourism industry, while Handri realised that the business had the potential to integrate further down the value chain – to process, package and distribute its produce – and At Source was born.

Koelfontein Estate continues to be a commercial farming operation and functions as a separate business to At Source. Like many other farms in the Warm Bokkeveld, its pride is its abundant fruit orchards. Along with apples and pears destined for fresh export and yellow cling peaches for canning, sun-drying of prunes, pears, nectarines, peaches and apricots has always been one of the mainstays of this farm. Koelfontein remains the anchor dried fruit raw material supplier to At Source.