Situated along one of the main leafy streets of Franschhoek, Le Poirier Franschhoek is perhaps one of the best things to come out of lockdown 2020.
This farm is owned and run by Paula Disberry, who is aided by her small, yet excellent team of locals. (Who were employed during lockdown when many in the village were without work.)
The team began their journey only about a year ago now, yet Le Poirier Franschhoek has already cemented itself as a natural paradise for rescue animals and eco-friendly farming practices.
What originally started as an escape from the city and the chance at their dream ‘forever’ home for Paula and her partner, Pete – who is equally pioneering – has turned into a tranquil farming haven.
Small and compact, Le Poirier Franschhoek may be – but there is nothing small about what they are achieving or doing here.
Indeed, Le Poirier Franschhoek must surely be one of the best things to come out of the pandemic.
What was once a former commercial pear orchard, requiring the heavy use of pesticides, is now a natural haven for animals, insects and people.
Pear Orchards Revived and Serving a Dual Purpose
Le Poirier, which can mean either ‘place of pears’ or ‘handstand’ in French, is a small farm in the heart of the Franschhoek valley.
Here, on the grounds on an old pear orchard, a private oasis of regenerative agriculture has taken on new life.
Now, in addition to being home to Paula and Pete’s incredible house – an architectural masterpiece – Le Poirier Franschhoek is a haven for celebrity hens, rescue rabbits and alpacas, each of whom contribute to the health of the soil and the quality, flavour and goodness of the farm’s organic produce and herbs.
Where once pesticides and synthetic fertiliser would have been the order of the day – the goal is simple: leave as little mark on the earth as possible and heal what can be helped and healed. 🙂
Welcome to Le Poirier Franschhoek: Place of Warmth, Hope and Meaningful Actions
As the impressive gate at 61 Dirkie Uys folds inward, you could be mistaken for thinking you have happened upon one of the local Cape mansions. And I suppose, in the hands of anyone other than Paula and Pete, this property could have been just that. A private residence shut off from the rest of the community.
Yet, instead, they have chosen to open their home and farm to guests. Inviting them inside with warmth and immediate friendship – even on Saturday afternoons.
My friend and I recently visited this beautiful Franschhoek small holding after I saw one of my fellow reviewers and explorers, the endlessly lovely, Lucy Brink, post about it.
Lucy assured me that the owners would most certainly welcome us to the farm. So I messaged Paula and we arranged a time and date to visit – and I am so glad we did.
Few places have an instantly healing, almost lifegiving essence to them. But, stepping out at the beautifully manicured, yet down-to-earth Le Poirier Franschhoek, made me feel like a child again. Hopeful and full of wonder for the world around us.
Gorgeous show hens – everything from luscious Orpingtons to fluffy Silkies – and excited dogs greeted us, the first farm friends we would make our acquaintance with.
Immediately, Paula greeted us with friendliness and our impromptu, yet thorough, farm tour began.
We started by the hens’ luxurious henhouse, where a vast pen and enclosure keeps these lovely ladies safe and pampered.
The hens, meanwhile, live up to their celebrity status. Especially as they are named after female icons, like Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Adele, Taylor Swift and Gwen Stefani. (A printed poster stuck on the henhouse even identifies each celeb hen with their real-life namesake.)
Indeed, these are powerhouse ladies. Numbering well over 50, these gorgeous hens play a vital role in helping Le Poirier Franschhoek to run smoothly and efficiently.
Not only do they provide incredible organic eggs. They also tend to some of the local pests, while naturally fertilising the soil.
I love fowls so it was definitely love at first sight. And if there are happy, well-loved hens anywhere, it is the ones at Le Poirier Franschhoek.
In addition to having the run of the farm (and in one instance, the house), these fine feathered ladies enjoy organic, fresh vegetables and non-GMO Farmer Eddie feed. (This is especially imported from Port Elizabeth.)
In many ways, I almost wish I was one of these pampered ladies. I could happily roam this beautiful, organic farm and lead a life of sunshine, freedom and goodness. 🙂
Aquaponic Gardening and Insect Hotels
From there, Paula took us into one of the veggie garden patches. This is neatly maintained and fenced off from the hens (not that that stops them from hopping over now and then). It is also where their aquaponic gardens thrive.
If, like me, this is the first you are hearing of aquaponic gardening – then let me explain.
Simply put, aquaponic gardening is a water-based method for growing plants with the help of fish and without soil.
The water does the work, aided by natural sunlight and the goldfish and tilapia.
The fish maintain, tidy and feed off the plant roots and debris. All while fertilising the water, nutrient-containing water that is also used to irrigate the property.
Through this process, Le Poirier Franschhoek is currently growing kale, herbs and lettuce on top of their irrigation dam. These, like the other organic vegetables and fruit they produce on-site, can be sold.
Le Poirier sells a wonderful range of seasonal produce boxes and local produce to Franschhoek residents and some restaurants.
The boxes include products from amazing local suppliers, like the range of cheeses and yoghurts from Dalewood Fromage – a farm practicing many of the same approaches – and microgreens from The Microgreen Shed.
Additionally, these veggie boxes help Le Poirier Franschhoek keep their team of nine staff (seven of whom were hired during lockdown) employed.
Through this, they have the ripple effect of supporting 37 dependents and locals within the valley.
Le Poirier Franschhoek delivers every Tuesday and Friday in Franschhoek. Otherwise, guests are welcome to collect their goods from the farm.
The insect hotels, meanwhile, invite the right guests – like bees, spiders, butterflies and hoverflies – to hibernate, shelter and lay their eggs. This, in turn, aids pest control, pollination and much more.
Superman and His Band of Bunnies
After that, we visited the rescue bunnies. These adorable little fluff balls are not just there for their cuteness factor though. Because their droppings complement the manure from the farm’s resident alpaca herd.
Le Poirier originally thought they had females only. Until Thandie Newton proved to be Henry Cavill. (Yes, as in ‘Superman’.)
So now the farm has a lovely little colony. (Although these days, the boy bunnies are kept separate in their own little corner of paradise…)
Bees, Bats and Birds
Aside from the furry and domesticated feathery friends, Le Poirier Franschhoek is also a haven for bees, wild birds, bats and owls.
Owl houses, bee hives and bird feeders can be found dotted around the farm. Each has a role to play – while there is no question of the vital importance of bees, the bats and owls do great work too.
Bats are excellent at pest control, dealing with unwanted pests, like young grasshoppers and moths. In fact, one lone bat can eat as many as a thousand mosquitoes in an hour.
While owls are naturally expert hunters and deal with the rodent issue. This is especially useful in rural areas where mice, moles and rats are more plentiful.
Farming Tips Gleaned from Netflix and Local Insights
I asked Paula how they picked up the knack for farming (with some pretty intricate and fascinating methods at that) in little less than a year.
She explains that a lot of it was learned through online resources, like impactful Netflix shows or handy YouTube tutorials.
Much of it, though, was simply gleaned from local farmers and residents, who have provided kind advice, tips and help in different ways and forms.
This reminds me once again how, small though the community may be, Franschhoek – a town built on tourism and the back of wine industry – continues to exist in togetherness and hope. Even in spite of all it has had to endure since the start of the pandemic.
The Main Attraction: Le Poirier Franschhoek’s Mighty Alpacas
We then crossed over the river (gently dancing over smooth river stones) on a natural tree stump bridge towards the alpacas enclosure and the original pear orchard.
Here, recycled plastic items have become planters; worm farms turn organic waste and leftovers into incredible fertiliser and above all, the alpacas dwell.
These are kept for their cuteness factor but more importantly, for how they can give back to the planet simply by existing.
With everyone from Graham Norton, Freddie Mercury and Elton John residing here – these cute alpacas deserve to be given a celebrity status. They are indeed icons in their own right.
Their manure, or beans, are a rich, natural soil conditioner that is ready to use, easy to spread and hugely eco-friendly.
Best of all, it has high concentrations of nitrogen-, potassium- and phosphorus-rich plant nutrients. It is also high in calcium and magnesium, which makes it perfect for fruit- and vegetable-farming.
Worm Gardens and Recycled Products for Eco-friendly Farming and Zero Food Waste
The worm gardens are another important and wonderful venture that Le Poirier has started. Sourcing waste and garden cuttings from local restaurants and businesses (Tapasco, Le Petit Manoir, Le Bon Vivant and Vegland), they have a great setup here.
I hope in time more local businesses will come to their aid or even start their own worm farms. (In fact, this is something almost all of us can do at home.)
I love this zero food waste approach. It was certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the farm for me.
Creating Job Security and Teaching Life Skills to All Ages
With a handful of dedicated, passionate staff, Paula and Le Poirier Franschhoek have not only created job security in a time when jobs have been lost left, right and centre. They have all found a way to teach and learn from others in the process.
The farm often hosts families and school groups. Paula says the goal here is simple: educate the youth and ensure that they leave with an awareness regarding the fragile state of our planet.
Because, bunny cuddles and fun farm walks aside, that is what Le Poirier Franschhoek is all about.
Paula told us how, overall, it is amazing to see how the children who visit are the ones who seem to show the most awareness.
They have learnt from the previous generations, who have failed to do and be better. They are scared, passionate and motivated to enforce change.
When the youth can no longer look to their elders for wisdom and guidance on how to live and care for this planet – then you know we have all royally messed up.
If that doesn’t make you want to change your ways and do something to help save our dying planet – then I don’t know what will.
We Can All Do Better
It’s time to change the narrative , set an example for our youth and collectively adopt more eco-friendly practices. Whether that means creating a worm farm; practicing a zero food waste ideology or simply recycling and saying no to single-use plastics – there is something that we can all do. Every single one of us.
With all that they have achieved in little over a year, Paula, Pete and the whole Le Poirier Franschhoek team are utterly inspirational. They are champions of the planet – and of better ways to live.
I can’t help but feel if more people could see this as the only way forward – then we might all have some hope for the future.
Franschhoek Open Gardens 2021
Keen to explore Le Poirier Franschhoek’s incredible gardens for yourself?
Then why not join them for the Franschhoek Open Gardens 2021, which will take place over the weekend of 29 to 31 October 2021.
You can explore this incredible garden, as well as nine other gardens partaking in this popular annual springtime event.
Tickets can be purchased for R200 (per person) via Webtickets or from La Motte Wine Farm; proceeds will go towards supporting local causes.
To arrange a tour, event or for information on their produce and herbs, you can contact Le Poirier Franschhoek and Paula on: +27 (083) 399 7860 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Le Poirier Franschhoek can be found at 61 Dirkie Uys, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa.
Pete’s Venture: Cape Touring
In addition to Le Poirier Franschhoek, Pete has his own incredible venture and business, Cape Touring.
Cape Touring offers personalised, custom-made experiences, bespoke tours and fun itineraries in the Cape Winelands. This includes everything from food and wine to cycling, riding and hiking.
You can sightsee the Cape or tour the Winelands – the choice is yours.
Cape Touring has behind them years of experience and knowledge. This ensures a memorable, detailed and eye-opening experience(s) for locals and tourists alike.
For more on their offerings or to book a tour, please visit: capetouring.co.za or contact them on: +27 (084) 725 6408, peter(at)capetouring.co.za
Alternatively, you can also connect with and follow them on Instagram.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Paula and Pete for giving up their time and warmly showing us around their gorgeous home and farm. We loved every moment there and left feeling truly impacted and inspired by everything we saw.
I would also like to give a small mention/thanks to Lucy Brink, who introduced me to the wonderful Le Poirier Franschhoek and Paula.
Author: Tamlyn Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.