Driving from Worcester to Ceres on the R43 would just not be the same without Rietdakkie Farmstall offering a great stop-over. It seems like it’s been there forever, but it almost didn’t make it. Well, until artist JH Pierneef unintentionally intervened. Gerrit Rautenbach pulled over and got the story.
Every time I drive up to Ceres for a meeting, I whoosh past the Rietdakkie Farmstall, being almost late again for said meeting. And every time I say, one day I’ll make time and stop. Then one day came. I was hungry and when I saw the small little thatched roof pophuis announcing the impressive-looking real farm stall behind it, I indicated and pulled over.
Inside I could hardly believe my eyes. Row upon row of great homemade produce, most with a Rietdakkie logo on. Varieties of dried peaches, plums, nuts, chutneys, and condiments. The special of the day board announced lasagne and salad but next to the coffee machine a huge cauldron bubbled with real boere-boontjiesop.
Now, the thing with boontjiesop is it can either be brilliant or boringly bad. I kind of guessed where Rietdakkie’s soup would be, so I ordered from Maryke Botha, proprietor of Rietdakkie.
“This farm stall must have a good story behind it,” I enquire from her.
“Indeed, it does. It all started with a wagon full of fresh fruit selling next to the road right here,” she begins.
Her father-in-law, Flip Botha, always (long before he became her father-in-law) took his fresh fruit to the Worcester market. Until he realised there was kind of a clique of buyers and hawkers banding together. One guy will set the price very low, buying everything in a sort of mock bidding (you either sell or go home with your fruit), just to resell later at market price.
So, Flip decided to go home and display his fruit and vegetables for sale next to the road in front of his farm. This was soon followed by ginger cookies and watermelon jam.
Some years later, in 1989, Flip’s sons Rian and Ernst upgraded the wagon to a Wendy house with walls of wood and a roof of reeds. Hence the name, Rietdakkie. “So, everybody started contributing goodies for the farm stall and after I married Rian, I was the third and last sister-in-law to get involved,” Maryke continues. “Every morning we had to unpack all the produce and every night pack it up again. That thin plank structure wasn’t Fort Knox!”
After a while, she convinced Rian this little hut is not making the cut. The produce didn’t look up to scratch from all the handling, packing, and unpacking it. Very much crinkled. So, in 2001 they built a decent brick-and-mortar stall. Because of its heritage, they retained the name Rietdakkie and designed the farm stall to look like a hartbeeshuis, thatched roof and all. Rietdakkie revisited.
Maryke enlightens: “Every weekday morning, the local kids would arrive at Rietdakkie, waiting for the bus, congregating on the stoep in front, under the awning when it was raining. However, on one Thursday morning in April of 2019, the kids all stayed home because they were going on an adventure later to Cape Town where they were going to climb Table Mountain.
“On that exact same morning, a bus and cement lorry collided close to Rietdakkie. The bus driver lost control and his bus crashed into the farm stall.
“All four poles of the trellis went through his windscreen but he ducked in time and climbed out of the bus unscathed. Nobody got injured. The kids were not there …”
That was a total blessing, but Rian and Maryke now had a crisis. Over the years the farm stall became an indispensable asset to the farming business. Insurance insisted that they rebuild, but that was a no-go. They needed to raise it all to the ground and refinance a new Rietdakkie. That’s where Pierneef enters the story.
“My mom, Carla Müller owned a Pierneef painting and quite some time ago she announced it was to become mine. With Rietdakkie having to rise again, Mom made the painting available to be sold. At more or less the same time, Rian’s mom, Marianna Botha passed, and he inherited from her as well. So, both our mothers are entrenched in the past, present and future existence of Rietdakkie. I just wish skoonpa Flip could have shared in this joy because he loved to wheel and deal and to engage with people.”
This time they built more than just a farm stall. In August 2020 the new structure was completed, comprising a farm stall, a complete farm kitchen as well as the business hub and office of their farm, De Hoop. But to retain the memory of the name, they added a small shelter with a rietdakkie in front. Apart from being their sort of 3-D logo, it is also the new bus shelter for the school kids. The tradition lives on.
From a wagon to a Wendy house to a hartbeeshuis to this beautiful modern iconic structure, it seems Rietdakkie will always be part of the route between Ceres and Worcester.
Currently, Rietdakkie offers work for five full-time employees, but in high season this goes up to at least 10. Offering great fare like their own homemade dried fruit, jams, condiments, rusks, cookies, biltong, droëwors, farm meals with real roosterkoek and much more. So next time you’re on the R43 make time for Rietdakkie. You won’t regret it.
- This article by journalist Gerrit Rautenbach was originally written for Hortgro. It is republished with permission.
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