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Posted on: Monday, 14 February 2011

An eco-village market – Camphill village shows us how

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Camphill Village

Camphill Village

We’re on the N7. It’s a perfect Sunday morning – the skies are blue, the morning already hot, our window filled with scenic farmland and the promise of a market. Camphill Village, on the West Coast (well, not exactly, it’s just down Klein Dassenberg Road from Atlantis so not far from the sea, on a beautiful, remote piece of land) is an eco village that holds a market on the first Sunday of every month, except January.

It being February, we’ve decided to pay a visit. Our second. This one is with our son, and we spend a while in the car narrating our initial visit ‘sans child’ to child, who is fascinated with the concept that there was a life before him at all! He can’t quite get his head around the idea that, whilst he might not remember being on the back seat of the car, he must have ‘been’ there, surely? I always tell him he was always in my mind’s eye.

We buy Camphill Village’s yoghurt, and often their rye bread and rusks, which we love, on a regular basis. But usually we do this at other shops or via the Ethical Co-op. I’ve even started ordering their unpasteurised milk as at least it comes in glass jars – the only milk in the Western Cape to arrive in glass, which makes my attempt to bring as little plastic as possible into the house, that much easier :)

They also produce a myriad other products, including dairy like feta, crème fraiche, and frozen yoghurt, an entire array of chemical-free cosmetics, herbal teas and fresh, biodynamically grown vegetables. And ‘they’ are a group of adults with special needs who live and work together on the farm, roughly 40 kilometres north of Cape Town.

Camphill Village

The set-up is similar to any eco village in the sense that the residents live in houses, but each has a home leader (with their children) and a series of volunteers who live with residents and share their lives. Everyone works together in the homes, workshops and vegetable gardens, producing what they then sell, both to commercial ventures like Pick n Pay and Spar as well as health shops, but also at their monthly market. The farm is run on biodynamic principles and has been for over 30 years.

There is also a Camphill Farm just outside Hermanus, in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, run along very similar lines, where there is an independent and residential day school for children and young people with special needs as well. Both are part of the international Camphill Movement, based on the principles of Rudolph Steiner.

We park under a series of pine trees, careful to make sure our tyres remain on terra firma (lots of pine needles), as the car alongside us has already had to make use of the farm’s tractor to haul it out of its rather sandy predicament. I’m now not sure if we’re in the right place. On the walls of the farm were signs for the electoral commission, which might mean that the series of people we see milling around are here for that, rather than the market. The venue seems different from when we were last here – but then we didn’t come on a market day.

I head off, whilst my family try to help the car in desperate need next to us. I take a look around. There are a series of pretty buildings linked by a covered walkway on which trestle tables are set . It’s definitely market day, and the place is already seriously humming. I wave like mad at the car, and my son barrels over to come and join in the fun.

Camphill Village Market

Around us children of all ages are running and shouting. Some have already laid their hands on the Camphill Village frozen yoghurt. There is a real sense of safety here and the market is small enough that our children won’t get lost. On one side is a little coffee shop come restaurant, prettily decked out with modern blackboards on which are displayed today’s menu. Someone has etched a series of seriously pink roses, trailed with little hearts, vertically down the wall close to the door. A few residents, whose job it is to help clear tables, are milling around, trays tightly clasped to their chests or swinging them in  abandon. They’re happy to see us.

We make our way along the verandah. It is hot by now, exacerbated by the tin roof, but there is a breeze and we’re surrounded by pretty gardens. I overhear someone talking about how they’re only watering sections of the garden in an effort to save water.

We chat for a bit with Eastlynne, who makes homemade lemonade and re-packages it in recycled glass Karoo Water bottles – I love the bottles. She also makes a sugar-free stevia version, which is popular with diabetics and we sample some. It’s so hot that I buy us a glass and we down it quickly. My son is practising what it means to enter into a trade. He has a few rand coins to barter and wants something special, so we head over to the Camphill Village shop, on the other edge of the corridor.

Camphill Village Market

In here are a series of biodynamically grown vegetables – cherry tomatoes, chives, pumpkin, red cabbage, spinach, leaks, rhubarb and onions – a series of handmade items from woven lampshades to knitted jerseys and bobble hats for winter, all beautifully crafted and reasonably priced. There are bathroom mats, homemade jams and pickles, and a whole bag of frozen broad beans for just R5, which my other half enthusiastically buys, and then, all credit to him, proceeds to make an inspiring bean pate from once we are home later.

The little man makes his own purchase, of a honey yoghurt. He hands over the money, and then when asked if he’d like to eat it at home or on the premises (grown-up talk for ‘do you want a spoon with that, lovey’) prepares to part with another Rand coin, assuming he’s got it wrong. I restrain myself from stepping in to sort it out and let them complete the transaction. He proudly takes his jar of yoghurt to sit at a nearby table. Makes me all dew-eyed.

In the meantime, I can’t help noticing that lunch, on the other side of the market, is heating up. We won’t get a table if we wait much longer. Around the restaurant are a series of tables in the shade. Families are sitting down to wonderful meals. There is a combination of braaied boerewors, glorious ciabatta rolls, delicious salads and a wonderful vegetarian option that includes peas and fresh mint mixed with the farm’s signature feta and lentils – num.

After helping ourselves to the ridiculously reasonably priced meals, and acquiring a really pretty floppy hat, white background bedecked with purple roses at an equally silly price (‘have you thought to tell them they can get twice what they ask’, my husband asks me as I model the hat), we sit to the accompaniment of the marimba band, its swaying rhythms a wonderful background vibe for a meal. A great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Camphill Village

Address & Contact Details:
Camphill Village, Klein Dassenberg road. Off N7, Klein Dassenberg, Western Cape.
Telephone:  +27 (0)21 571-8600

West Coast Links:
West Coast Attractions
Things to Do in Cape West Coast

Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

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1 comment about An eco-village market – Camphill village shows us how
  1. September 28th, 2011 at 20:40
    George Chirume says:

    Hi. I would like to book a stall to sell and market my wire and beadwork art and craft products.
    Thanks and regards.
    George Chirume.