Our farm’s energy and water saving, ecological rehabilitation support for initiatives like the Living Soils Community farm which improves the lives of our local community were key to receiving this wonderful recognition from Food & Wine and WWF South Africa.
Restoring and conserving a remarkable ecosystem
Nursery manager Wilton Sikhosana and his team of 30 have planted more than one million bulbs, 87000 trees and shrubs and 6000 succulents across our 620ha farm, and played a key role in our efforts being recognised by. There are almost 180 different indigenous species growing in the Spier nursery at any one time! The replanting has attracted a wealth of bird and animal life back into the area and forms part of efforts to ensure Spier’s biodiversity is both protected and enhanced.
Wilton studies the ecology, distribution and habitat of each plant species that he propagates, so he knows which plants should grow where. Spier farm has a variety of different habitats – including its river network and wetlands where bulbs are planted. On sandy, drier patches a variety of fynbos species and trees are planted.
There are many areas across Spier where thirsty alien vegetation has been cleared and water-wise indigenous species can be planted in their place. Specially demarcated zones for replanting – “nature strips” – create diversity surrounding the vineyards and pastures. Combined with the pre-existing patches of endangered Renosterveld (which has Spier committed to conserving), these protected zones will ultimately form one continuous conservation corridor across the farm. This increases the viability of fauna and flora populations by enabling them (or their genes) to flow from one area to another. The larger and more diverse a population, the better that species is able to adapt to environmental stresses over time. This will minimise the potential localised extinction of species and ensure that the maximum biological diversity is conserved at the site.
Visitors to our farm are able to enjoy — and learn more about — this thriving ecosystem on marked running trails, by complimentary bike, and on Segway Tours.
A bountiful harvest at the Living Soils Farm
In March 2019, Spier partnered with Woolworths and the Sustainability Institute and its AgroEcology Academy to launch the Living Soils Community Learning Farm. Based at Spier, it produces nutritious food using ecologically-regenerative farming methods.
Rirhandzu Marivate is the farm’s project manager, who has overseen the sterling efforts of the farm’s first three interns — all women originally from the Eastern Cape: Phutuma Mgu, Vuyolwethu Zicina, Thandiwe Mtyingizani. After clearing the land and preparing it using agroecological methods to regenerate the soil with beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, the trio planted a wide range of vegetables. The first harvest was in November 2019; by March this year, an astonishing 1700 kilograms of produce had been harvested – from just under a hectare land. The harvest was given to the Sustainability Institute to use in the meals prepared for approximately 200 impoverished and at-risk children from the Lynedoch community that attend one of the schools at the Institute
Following the conclusion of the three interns’ internship, they have stayed on at the farm. They have taken on leadership positions to mentor the seven new interns that joined the farm in 2020
“Vuyo and Thandi have also expanded their skills to learning and working in growing seedlings for Living Soils in the nursery. These three ladies will continue with the project as we hope that they continue to grow and take up more space as team members, facilitators and farmers,” says Marivate.
Growing for Good
Spier’s support of ecological restoration and small-scale, regenerative agriculture forms part of Growing for Good, where the wine farm invests in learning initiatives that empower communities to create positive social and environmental change.
All Spier wines and offerings display the Growing for Good icon – a heart in a vine leaf that represents both the community and environment.
“Our focus on learning is because of its ability to unleash the potential of people. This catalyses a ripple effect of positive change that goes far beyond Spier,” says Andrew Milne, Spier’s CEO. “The Growing for Good icon reminds consumers that, by choosing Spier, they are contributing to a positive social and environmental impact. Their valued support ensures we can continue to invest in projects that make a meaningful difference.”
Image credit: Wilton Sikhosana (Spier nursery manager) receiving the WWF Conservation Leader trophy from Shelly Fuller (WWF South Africa)