• On the 6th of June 2024, Food&Home was invited to a beautifully curated interactive experience in Babylonstoren. A wonderful day packed with mother nature’s beauty, history and amazing food. 

    Introducing their project Soetmelksvlei, a concept inspired by the spirit of a 19th century farmyard. The project invites guests to immerse themselves into a world of interaction to fully experience a unique piece of history on the slopes of Simonsberg . A day at Soetmelksvlei farmyard takes us not only back in time to experience the 19th century but opens our eyes further into what we can learn about the history of farming practices especially in terms of sustainability. 

    Image: Supplied

    The day’s adventure begins with a tranquil short shuttle ride that takes you on the day’s journey. At arrival the 19th century scene is set taking guests back in time almost immediately to an era of industrialisation. The farmyard paints a vivid picture of a period before electricity poles and Model T Fords, a world where time moves slower. Soetmelksvlei honors the legacy of artisanry and a time where your hands could create anything that was needed. 

    From the start, guests are placed into a world of interaction bearing witness to the daily activities and chores of the farm’s craftspeople. Guests are introduced to the farm’s home-life where insight is shown into how a family living at the turn of the 20th century would have lived. This experience is demonstrated through the recreation of farmhouse interiors. 

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    At the farmhouse kitchen table guests are invited to sit at the kitchen table, with a freshly brewed cup of moerkoffie paired with a still-warm bread or rusk, whilst observing the kitchen utensils and daily activities of the 19th century kitchen. The experience shares knowledge about heritage fruit and vegetables from the farm gardeners. After the time spent in the kitchen, the next stop takes you to the Gardeners cottage for the viewing of the dried medicinal herbs display. 

    Guests then immerse themselves in the Old Cellar, a wonder room in the true 19th century sense of the word: part exhibition space, part playhouse and part reading room. Take wholesome refreshment at the Old Stables Restaurant, which also has outdoor seating with a view of the outdoor children’s play area. Browse the Jonkershuis Farm Shop for old-world keepsakes, including traditional favourites like rusks, pickles, preserves, hand-knitted and crocheted blankets, mittens, slippers and children’s jerseys. As well as bespoke items, like the opsitkers or courtship candle, which used to determine the duration of an admirer’s welcome in the home. Our blacksmith provides the Farm Shop with beautifully crafted, durable cast-iron pans, oven dishes and braai tools.  

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    Daily activities, like the milking of cows, cream separation, butter churning, and wheat milling, will be repeated at specific times throughout the day. Guests are always encouraged to observe and interact. Soetmelksvlei hosts a variety of workshops where a new craft can be acquired, or to hone an existing skill. Culinary workshops are hosted in the Meat Room or Creamery, while our blacksmith, carpenters, and leathercrafters ply their trade in the Workshop. Or join our distillation master and learn to make your own mampoer. Workshop dates are fixed and must be pre-booked online. 

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    Animals form an integral part of any farmyard. Soetmelksvlei’s gabled fowl house is home to chickens and ducks, with a separate enclosure for doves. The kraal area has a dedicated cow shed and horse stables, with smaller enclosures for sheep and our miniature donkeys, Faf, and Tjokkie. Despite his beautiful mane, Faf is the timid one, whereas Tjokkie will give a friendly nip or nudge to keep the attention coming. Here too, visitors are encouraged to observe and participate in the feeding and care of all animals. 

    Museologist Elsa Vogts oversaw the curation of this multi-sensory, immersive journey through time. “I’m fascinated by the culture of self-reliance that farm life in 1897 required. It was a self-contained eco-system where everything was handmade and repaired on-site, with a surprising level of sophistication. My personal favourite would have to be the water mill. It was a huge task to build a water mill from scratch, one that looks and functions like a 19th century mill,” she says. 

    Head of Soetmelksvlei, Adele Johnson, and her team are thrilled to welcome guests to the farm. “After years of hard work and preparation, it is wonderful to share all the knowledge we’ve acquired with like-minded people who appreciate handwork and craftsmanship,” says Adele. “My biggest concern is that guests will underestimate how much there is to see and explore here.”   

    Allow enough time to experience all that Soetmelksvlei has to offer. Above all, take time to experience life at a slower, more grounded pace.  


    Open Thursday to Sunday in winter, from 09h00 to 16h00. Open daily in winter, from 09h00 to 17h00.

    Shuttle departs Babylonstoren at 30-minute intervals from 08h30 to 13h00.

    Shuttle returns to Babylonstoren at 11h00 and every hour, on the hour, until 16h00.


    R300 entrance fee per adult (includes an annual Babylonstoren membership valued at R100).

    R200 entrance fee per adult with a valid Babylonstoren membership.

    R100 entrance fee per child aged 4–17.

    Free entry for children aged 3 and younger, provided they sit on an adult’s lap for the shuttle ride from Babylonstoren to Soetmelksvlei.

    Book online at babylonstoren.com or contact [email protected]

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    Feature image: Supplied by Babylonstoren 

    Written by Babylonstoren Media & Communication and Katelin Maggott