Once upon a time
Scores of wild animals once roamed the region, as did the first known human inhabitants. A largely nomadic people, San hunter-gatherers travelled vast distances in search of food. Khoi-khoi pastoralists moved clan and cattle in search of favourable grazing for their herds.
From “Grabau” to Grabouw
Grabouw town in the Elgin Valley is the commercial centre of the largest single export fruit producing area in Southern Africa. The Elgin Valley produces up to 60% of the country’s national apple yield. Luckily, in spite of its commercial fame South Africa’s “apple country” has retained its unspoilt country charm.
In 1856 Wilhelm Langschmidt purchased the farm Grietjiesgat and named it Grabau after his hometown in Germany. He and his wife opened a trading store on the property. Interestingly, Langschmidt was father to a brood of 18 children or by some accounts 23. Later he sold parts of “Grabau” and so began the farming community of Grabouw, as it’s known today.
Revolutionising the fruit industry
In the early 1900s the Molteno brothers invested in the area around the Palmiet River and called their farm Glen Elgin. The brothers pioneered various farming and cold storage methods and grew a significant deciduous fruit farming business known today as Molteno Brothers. They were actively involved in developing Grabouw town and had a major influence in turning the Elgin Valley into the country’s major single export fruit producer.
Anglo-Boer Wars and knighthood
The first commercial deciduous fruit orchards were the work of visionary, prolific farmer and knighted peacemaker Sir Antonie Viljoen. Prior to knighthood and farming he’d achieved a medical degree from Edinburgh University.
In 1898 he founded the Oak Valley Estate. The following year the second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) began. He was appointed as a medical officer on the Boer side. Captured by the British he was placed under house arrest at Oak Valley on condition that he paid for his own internment. In other words, for the remainder of the war he paid the salaries of the two British soldiers who guarded him.
The Boer Wars are a bitter and difficult subject for many even today. In 1916 Sir Antonie Viljoen received a knighthood for his efforts to reconcile the British and the Boers.
Among his many achievements he:
An avid tree lover, his will specified that no future property inheritors were to cut down any of his beloved trees. Today there are more than 4 000 oak trees on the property.
- Established the first commercial deciduous fruit orchards
- Planted vineyards for wine production
- In 1908 he built Elgin Valley’s first wine cellar, which was unfortunately taken out of production in the early 1940’s
- Planted black wattle from which he produced charcoal – said to be the largest producer in the country at the time
- Planted English oak forests
- Innovated the storing of harvested oak acorns under water in bunkers to use as feed for his piggery
The Appletiser story
In 1966 on Applethwaite Farm, Edmund Lombardi created and introduced a pure, carbonised apple soft drink free of additives and preservatives. Today Appletiser pure apple juice is enjoyed throughout the world along with Peartiser and red and white Grapetiser. The farm itself is now privately owned but the old farmhouse remains on the property. It’s situated alongside the state-of-the-art Appletiser factory building, which has the capacity to produce a million hectolitres of juice per year.
Neil Hobkirk: Marketing Director, Appletiser. Find out how Appletiser takes seriously its commitment to the local Elgin community.
Harry Nowers: Packaging Manager, Appletiser. Discover how 40 000 bottles and 45 000 cans go from production line to distribution in one hour.