The Regional History
San and Khoi people inhabited the Cederberg area from early times. European settlers began stock farming in the Cederberg early in the eighteenth century, and in 1876 a forester was appointed to oversee crown land in the mountains. This was possibly the first attempt at conservation in the Cederberg.
Farmers used the mountains to graze livestock in times of drought, and together with tobacco, this was one of the main farming activities until about 1965. A conservancy, of which Mount Ceder forms the southern border, was established in 1997.
Mount Ceder offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the mountains, veld, river and scenery as well as observe a working olive farm.
Have a look at our Mount Ceder Olives products
Cultivating Tobacco in the Cederberg
Grootrivier, now known as Mount Ceder, largely owes its economic development to the production of chewing tobacco. Work on the tobacco fieldsusually commenced in August and September with the preparation of the soil. Loads of goat manure from the goat pens were off loaded and placed in even rows as fertilizer, and then later manually scattered and worked into the land. Large herds of goats were specially kept and brought into enclosures at night for their manure which could be worked into the fields. Although fertilizer and guano became available in later years, the farmers continued to use goat manure as they believed the special flavour and "kick" in chewing tobacco was due to dung from the goats.
After the manure was ploughed into the soil, the tobacco seedlings were planted in neat rows. The fields were irrigated and it was absolutely essential that the rows and irrigation furrows were prepared at the correct fall and angle on the slopes. There was fierce competition among the farmers regarding their tobacco fields, as a tobacco field was prepared with great pride.
When the tobacco plants were fully grown at the end of the season, the whole plant was cut and hung upside down on slats to partially dry.
Before the leaves were completely dry, the leaves were carefully and individually cut loose from the stem and stacked in piles on a concrete floor in the tobacco shed to dry out further. During this drying process, the piles of leaves were covered with hessian which would build up heat and cause the leaves to sweat. As a result, they had to be manually turned and tossed twice a day to cool them down. This process was repeated for several days until the leaves were dry and no longer produced heat or sweat. At this stage, the leaves were ready to be plaited into thumb-think plaits and wound onto a large reel. Once the reel was full, the farmer would make tobacco rolls. It was important that each of the rolls be the same size and a certain amount of skill was involved in the process. These rolls were then packaged and sold.
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Compiled by André Marais – January 2012, please ask us for permission to reuse this article.