Spent two days at Klein Nektar Olive Farm in the picturesque Montagu, tasting their New Season organically grown Olive Oil, eating citrus fruits and playing with day old chicks.
Food Stories & Connection
Artisan, small scale farmers, slow food, organic and seasonal is something that I have been passionate about for a really long time. I have decided to start writing down the stories of people who inspire me. The ones choosing the long road, the difficult road but ultimately the right road.
To me food is all about connection and I hope by documenting these stories that I can help bring a connection back to the way we see, buy and cook food.
It feels so right to start with a story about Olive Oil. After food, olive oil is my second love and it is the start (and the ending) to most dishes in my kitchen. It is with this in mind that I packed up the family on route to Montaque to meet farmer Kai and to have a taste of her golden nektar.
Meeting Kai – farmer
I met Kai in 2017, when she personally dropped off samples of olive oil for me to taste. I liked Kai the moment I met her, because I like people who have guts, passion, take risks and swim against the stream. Exactly the qualities you need to farm organically!
With a need to slow down, Kai and husband Alan said goodbye to corporate careers which included a long stint sailing private yachts around the world. When they bought Klein Nektar in 2016, they have never farmed before.
Farming in Harmony
Originally Klein Nektar was a conventional small sheep farm with heavily sprayed vineyards and olives. To me the word ‘conventional farming’ is now synonymous with a standard chemical spray program and the casual use of harmful chemicals not fully considering the impact these chemicals have on the environment and us.
From the start, both Alan and Kai had a passion to restore the farm back to nature by farming without any chemicals and in harmony with nature. In fact, that was their prerequisite to each other before buying the farm, ‘if we are going to do this, we are going to this properly’. They started by healing the barren soil. Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy ecosystem.
Kai and Alan farm with garlic, chardonnay grapes, fruit & citrus trees, alfalfa and olive trees. The walnut, almond and pecan trees grow proudly on the farm.
Klein Nektar feels like everything is in harmony, the chickens graze under fruit trees, the sun glistens over the giant pecan nut tree and sound of bees are ever present.
Farming without Chemicals
Farming organically is not easy and not helped by chemical companies pushing hard for the incorporation of their chemicals into every part of the agriculture process.
Converting to organic was by no means going to be easy and Kai admitted that very early on she grew a huge respect for farmers choosing the organic route. Nature, in the form of the weather patterns, are constantly keeping the organic farmers on their toes.
What became apparent throughout our visit is the less chemicals you use the less you need to use. Plants are designed to survive, and by farming organically the plants will have to produce more protective compounds to protect themselves from draughts, pests and animals. The more compounds they produce the less we as humans have to interfere.
‘Barefoot Olive Trees’
The 300 strong Mission olive trees are about 18/20 years old. After a decision to stop the use of any chemicals on the olive trees, their first harvest was not great as the trees were invested with the infamous olive beetle. The trees had to adapt, in Kai’s words:
“after years of chemicals, we took the shoes off the trees, the trees had to be barefoot again, they had to learn how to survive in nature, naturally”.
It took 4 years for the olive trees to fully adapt to a chemical free life. After another devastating crop last year, because of the long draught, Kai and Alan celebrated with an absolute bumper crop.
New Season Olive Oil
New season olive oil is pressed in Autumn when the olives had time to plump up, in SA in 2020 this meant the start of COVID. Sadly with most of Klein Nektar income from tourism cancelled, Kai and Alan had to harvest the bumper crop of olive trees by hand alone, not being able to afford extra labour.
Olive oil doesn’t really get better than this. The taste is fresh, almondy, creamy, grassy and peppery. I will be writing a full piece on the health benefits of olive oil soon.
Kai and Alan are passionate about natural farming, what struck me was Kai’s strong bond with the farm including her chicken family. I wish more farmers could share her passion for seeking natural alternatives of pest control and that the use of chemicals should be the absolute last resort.
We stayed in a beautiful, well equipped and lovingly restored farm cottage which sleeps 4.
To order stay on Klein Nektar or to purchase new season olive oil you can contact Kai & Alan directly:
Phone: +27 (0) 71 506 2810