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Owning groves of olive trees is a popular dream for many. Making your own olive oil is another. But who gets to do that? Living life close to nature as an artisan, producing oil using methods that are as old as time itself is simply out of reach for most people. But when the opportunity arises to own a thriving olive farm in a pastoral and historic district, you have to grab it.
This opportunity doesn’t come often. Fortuitously, Tulbagh Olive Farm in the Groot Winterhoek Valley, a few minutes from the village of Tulbagh in the Western Cape, is available along with an attention-grabbing product that’s made it popular with foodies and olive aficionados worldwide.
Everybody knows Tulbagh, but the Groot Winterhoek Valley situated in a crook of the massive Winterhoek mountains behind this historic village is less well known. Tulbagh is about an hour and a half’s drive from Cape Town, located in the historic Land van Waveren and not far from wine-producing Riebeek Kasteel in the Swartland. Tulbagh began life in 1703 as the focus of a small farming settlement and today it’s famous for thatched Cape Dutch houses lining Church Street, as well as some lovely gabled churches, the old Cape Dutch parsonage and the Drosdty. Well restored, beautifully preserved, today these buildings give Tulbagh its uniquely old-fashioned character. People come here to see the architecture, dawdle in the sun, taste wine and lunch in restaurants tucked into old barns or white-washed homesteads. It’s also a place to spend the weekend.
Going north from Tulbagh, the Winterhoek Road takes you past the 18th-century Drosdty and heads on up into the mountains, past orchards, olive groves and wine estates, to the 30 000ha Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve and wilderness conservation area bordering the magnificent farm Lemoendrif, home to Oakhurst Olives. Once a peach farm and now a flourishing olive producing estate, Tulbagh Olive Farm is one of the valley’s hidden secrets, although if you’re a fan of Oakhurst-branded Kalmata table olives and their fruity extra virgin olive oil then clearly you’re dining out in all the right South African restaurants. Because here, on this 238ha farm on the slopes of the towering Winterhoek mountains, are the olive groves whose oil has won many prestigious awards around the world, from Sydney to New York. As the third or fourth largest table olive producer in South Africa, this olive farm is also the sole supplier of table olives to large national restaurant franchises as well as most of the five-star hotels in the Cape. The property really is full of surprises – not least of which is its magnificent location and the views it offers across the entire Tulbagh Valley spread out below.
The current owners bought the farm in 2004, replacing the peaches with olives and planting over 30,000 trees across 34ha with the potential for planting up an additional 15- to 20ha. The sale of the farm includes the thriving olive producing business, Oakhurst Olives. Here, olives are hand harvested and, in the on-site processing plant, pickled in brine, sorted and packaged for sale as table olives (70%) and olive oil (30%). While Kalamata table olives are a speciality, Oakhurst skilfully blends ten olive varieties for their oil. These are recognisably premium quality products. The processing plant has full international food safety credentials and there’s the Olive Cellar with a public Tasting Centre and Test Kitchen. Here they celebrate all things olive, from tutored olive tastings to masterclasses with leading chefs and gourmet getaway weekends. In addition, the farm’s position under the mountains means that its five dams are never empty ensuring a thriving business despite the summer heat.
The main house, in its landscaped setting surrounded by oaks, is family-oriented, with six bedrooms, a family TV room featuring a fireplace, as well dining room and sitting room both of which have underfloor heating and air conditioning. There’s a swimming pool and the gardens are peaceful and secluded. There’s massive potential here for a small boutique hotel. If you include the additional bedroom suite in the French Provençal-style boathouse beside the dam just below the house, even better. It has its own kitchen and dining area together with space for a party. There’s also a stable, a dressage arena and a lunge ring. Come for the weekend, waterski or fish in the dam, ride or hike, or simply head over to the Olive Cellar to taste Oakhurst’s famous product in the company of a gastronome well-schooled in the art of getting the best out of olives.
The additional established olive nursery offers potential farmers a wide range of the best quality, true-to-type olive trees grown under strictly controlled conditions from healthy trees with a history of excellent and regular production. Trees are size graded according to the industry regulator, SA Olive, classification and are priced accordingly. The nursery, which offers a consultation service to customers, is fully automated, a registered nursery with the National Department of Agriculture (NDA) and is a member of SA Olive.
Of course, Oakhurst is a serious established business but opportunities to marry a lifestyle with your day job are fleeting. This is one of them – and it never looked better.
(price includes all olive processing equipment)