“Pampoen Padstal” Pumpkin Stall is The Coolest Farm Stand in South Africa
The “Pampoen Padstal” (‘pumpkin farmstall’) attached to the farm where Hetze Viljoen grew up and is now living with her family is one of the coolest and most visually-stunning farm stalls in South Africa– maybe even the entire hemisphere.
Located on route R60 (a national road connecting Worcester with Robertson, Swellendam and the N2 national road that becomes what is known as the “Garden Route”) her eclectic and abundant farm stand is a whimsical destination off the beaten path– one that many tourists like myself have travelled between Cape Town and Mossel Bay.
Viljoen’s father believed that a farm should always house a variety of both livestock and crops. He loved growing fresh produce for the house and their workers. While what would become his pumpkin farm stall started as a kitchen garden, it gradually snowballed until he was producing vegetables not only for the inhabitants of their farm, but for their friends and neighbors as well. In the meanwhile, Viljoen’s mother had started selling antiques in the little farm building that houses the farm stall today. At that point, it was called De Oude Schuurtjie, which is Dutch for “the old little barn”.
This was about 40 years ago, when Viljoen’s mother gradually began to introduce one or two farm products on to the shelves amongst the antiques, including seasonal vegetables and homemade jams.
One of Viljoen’s father’s most successful crops was pumpkins– initially only the common variety for cooking, but later on he experimented with other varieties and eventually managed to breed some remarkable specimens, which he grew in concert with other ground vegetables, wine grapes, and lettuces.
At some point, Viljoen’s mother decided that selling farm produce was more lucrative and interesting than antiques.
“Several of the more interesting and colorful pumpkins are displayed under a big tree in the yard and in front of the shop. Each year, the family builds a giant display under the tree.”
Viljoen took the farm stall over from her mother when the family moved to the farm permanently. Her husband has continued the tradition and now grows pumpkins in a wide array of sizes, colors, and varieties– some for cooking, but many that are simply decorative. Several of the more interesting and colorful pumpkins are displayed under a big tree in the yard and in front of the shop. Each year, the family builds a giant display under the tree.
The “Pumpkin Tree” is an enticing sight that can be seen for miles around. Shoppers attracted by the pumpkin display stop to take photographs and are asked to make a voluntary donation to a fund for the farm children. Such contributions ensure that each child living on the farm receives a winter rain jacket. Proceeds also go towards the farm’s aftercare center, where school children go in the afternoons whilst their parents are still at work. (The funds keep it well-stocked with stationery, food, and educational items. Viljoen and her family also make an annual donation to the local primary school.)
Apart from their farm-fresh produce, the Pampoen Padstal stocks the neighbors’ crops as well as a variety of dried fruit, nuts, jams, preserves, and an assortment of fresh baked goods. Eva Mouton, whose family has lived and worked on the farm for three generations, works alongside eight other women who tend the land and keep the farm stall stocked by producing jams, preserves, and baked goods on a rotational basis. Viljoen and her husband view this aspect of their job as an opportunity to enhance their skills and provide extra income for their families– a noble pursuit regardless of the fact that pumpkins look even cooler en masse.