Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Daggaboer Farmstall - food and stories

[Update 2017: The Daggaboer as it existed is no more. An owner has left and the character has changed.]

Perhaps some people stand on the brakes when they see the sign.

In South Africa, dagga is marijuana. And just like everywhere else, it is a controlled substance. So the idea of a farmstall dedicated to the weed was, well, brakeworthy.

So we stood on the brakes.

We had left the Mountain Zebra National Park after two wonderful nights, lulled to sleep by the yip-yowling of jackals, had eaten one of our best camping meals, had watched vervet monkeys raid the neighbour's camp kitchen (they ate the Scotchbrite sponges, yum yum)  and were heading south for Port Elizabeth, the coast and eventually, home.  It was around lunchtime and we were hungry.

Daggakoekies? Vince and I are the only people I know in New York, and most other places, who have never smoked pot. Perhaps that makes us backward. Or uptight. I keep threatening to potroast a chicken, haha, with the herbs stuffed under the skin, and my friends tell me that would be a valuable chicken. I like the smell of dagga, unlit.

But back to the point.

It is a pretty farmstall, whitewashed, with red geraniums planted beside a neat path to the neat bathrooms behind. Inside the shop, though, I immediately zoomed in on the biltong and droewors rack. Kos vir die kenner (food for the connoisseur). My mouth watered. The biltong was sliced for us, transparently garnet in the middle, slightly moist, and put into a paper bag, and we bought some sticks of sausage. As I write this I swallow hungrily. Soon.

Then we saw the signs for roosterkoek (lit. roastcake). These are rolls of bread dough traditionally baked over coals, typically on a wire grid so they get crosshatched top and bottom. They are substantial, and these were no exception. At a counter a big man and a big lady were tucking into their roosterkoek lunch.  The best, though, was the filling. Grated biltong! And to really go overboard you combine the biltong with grated cheddar. So we did. And butter of course. They were hot, fragrant, the butter melting onto us as we ate, later, on the move again..

There were tastings of ginger beer but we passed and bought nameless bottles of chilled water. Then we packed ourselves back in 4 x 4 and headed south, chewing luxuriously, trying to make it last, as the Karoo turned into the undulating coastal vegetation of the Eastern Cape.

The Daggaboer Farmstall was exceptional to me because it had an aura of 'eg'. Meaning pure. The 'g' is soft, like the noise an angry cat makes. It had integrity (that's for you, Mommy). It did not sell just tourist-trap junk. Real gingerbeer, the fresh roosterkoek, local honey, and many articles made or woven from the locally raised mohair...You can eat in, or take out. It is well worth a visit.

And that is why I tracked down Charl Pansegrouw on the web to ask about the name's etymology. Charl is the co owner of the farmstall -  his business partner is Isobel Neethling, and the farmstall is on land owned by farmer Andrew Jordaan - and very kindly replied and sent me the explanation you will read below. When he saw my last name, he digressed to tell me some lovely stores about his mother, Nanna Viljoen, who, when he asked her at the age of 89 if she would not please use the cane he had given her five years previously, said testily, Ek sal die ding gebruik as ek die dag oud is! I'll use the thing the day I'm old! When she was a schoolgirl, she earned money by playing the piano for the silent movies screened in town.

Coincidentally, Charl was educated in Bloemfontein, where I was born, and worked at Die Volksblad, the Afrikaans daily. My mother worked at The Friend, the English equivalent. We still have the canteen of beautiful silver The Friend gave her as a wedding gift. Good Friend. Nice Friend. Now I'm digressing.


Baie dankie, Charl, and here is the story of the Daggaboer name, in Charl's words, sent in English so that everyone can understand:

"Daggaboer Farm Stall is situated between Cradock (50 km) and Port Elizabeth (200 km) in the Eastern Cape. The somewhat peculiar name (Dagga is the common Afrikaans name for pot or marijuana) has brought many a smile and a few frowns as well from visitors – but it is much better remembered than for instance Sannie se Padstal (Sannie’s Farm Stall). Literally translated,
Daggaboer means marijuana farmer.

Although we have a sign at our door entrance reading Dagga sold out at 06h00, business hours 08h00 – 17h00, there are almost daily enquiries on whether we sell the ‘happy weed’ . Fortunately as far as I can remember, only one guy was serious in his enquiry – must’ve thought that he had finally arrived in heaven here in the sticks somewhere between nothing and nowhere! It was only when he started rattling off some ‘brand’ names such as Durban Poison, Swaziland
Royal etc., that one of the young assistants realized that he was serious. He was quite upset when she informed him that the name is all tongue in the cheek.

In our area the name Daggaboer is nothing strange. There are several farms with names such as Daggaboersnek, Daggaboershoogte (heights) and just plain Daggaboer. Daggaboersnek is actually indicated on most SA Roadmaps.

Where the name originated from. The following are a few that I know of:

About two kms from the Daggaboer Farm Stall on the way to Port Elizabeth there are some derelict buildings built from sandstone. This was apparently the farm of Piet Retief, one of the well known Voortrekker Leaders of the Great Trek that started in 1838 when thousands of Afrikaans speaking families trekked up north to get away from British Rule. After Retief left the still standing buildings were used as a blacksmith workshop, a general trading store, a police station and even a small hotel. This little complex became the gathering place for local farmers as the area is quite remote – especially in the days when the main means of transport were either by horse, cart and horse or ox wagon. Apparently the farmers had a way of greeting each other with “Dag-ou-Broer” (How’s it old chum) and so eventually the name for the area just became Daggaboer.

The second story about the origins of the name is that in Khoi language Dagga means Game and this area is still today very game rich and very popular with both local and overseas hunters. Therefore it was apparently common to refer to a farmer that had lotsof game on his farm as a Daggaboer (Game Farmer).

However, research seems to have shown that the Trollips who were British Settlers (the original British Settlers arrived in SA in 1820 and the oldest known Trollip grave on the farm dates to 1856), were actually registered as dagga farmers. It was not an illegal substance in those years, but they cultivated it mainly for horse feeding purposes. As horses had to travel long distances those years, they were rationed with the real thing as it would give them extra stamina! It was also common practice amongst many farmers to provide their farm workers with dagga to smoke – the reason also that it gave them extra working stamina. One needs to think back in history when there were no machines or motorized transport, so all the work was done by means of hard and harsh manual labour.

So there you have it – the origins of the name Daggaboer Farm Stall – we are still doing a lot ofhard manual labour but fortunately without the assistance of the happy weed!

So by the by – we sell large bottles of honey in re-used sterilized brandy bottles. The honey is very popular as the grazing areas for the bees are primarily Karoo veld flowers. This honey is often referred to as the Dr Richard Louw brand of honey – the reason being that the most popular brandy in our area is Richelieu and local consumers often refer to it as their ‘good friend’ Dr. Richard Louw…"

Charl is working on a book of stories, Van die Padstal se Stoep (From the Farmstall's Stoop) and when it is published, we will broadcast the news.

Update, 2017: We returned with high hopes. We were terribly disappointed. Unfriendly. No welcome. Like a different place completely. Charl apparently sold his partnership several years ago, I was told when I asked.


  1. Lovely story, Marie.I bet the book will be interesting. But what caught my eye was the colourful rooster on the sign.

    And for further weed info, see here
    if you missed it in the NYTimes

  2. You have the best stories.

    xo jane

  3. Oh how wonderful ! Can't wait for the book. And that's what I call a FARM STALL

  4. Haha. Ek en J het ook nog nooit die daggaroete gevolg nie, is nog altyd te veel van 'n hoofseun- en dogter. So, wat maak jul Desember?

  5. You'll have to enter that farmstall into our Puik Padstal competition (starting December online at Looks fabulous.

  6. Good story. Now, if Daggaboer translated literally is Pot farmer, then is 'boer' farmer. Then wors must be sausage (me think of the 'worst' as in bratworst) so that boerewors gets to mean Farmer Sausage?

    You probably already said all that, but I had a moment.

  7. Thanks, MIT...

    Jane - nah, you do!

    Hen - I'm surprised you haven't stoppped at this place, but maybe you left Zebra from another direction.

    arcadia - is dit? uh, wat maak ons met rook in Desember of praat ons van eet? :-)

    Andy - hello, Coz. I bet this will be nominated by numerous people.

    Frank - you put Sherlock Holmes to shame. In a word, Yes!

  8. Oh dear, I am going to have to admit that although at school I was incredibly strait-laced, I have smoked pot. Only twice in my life though, once as a student and once, well, actually only a few years ago... I must say I wouldn't mind having another go, if I knew how to get hold of it. (The Daggaboer is obviously not going to be an option.) I remember getting very erudite and spouting paragraphs of what I considered to be incredibly wise insights, but of course, forgot these immediately afterwards. I may very well have the Answer to Everything locked up in my mind - I intend to have a scribe on hand if ever I should have another opportunity. On the other hand, I have never had roosterkoek. (I hope that doesn't make me a bad person.) I loved the story of the etymology of Daggaboer. My dad (originally from Napier, but now long departed, from life I mean, not Napier) told the story of Sandy's Glen near Napier. Apparently it was known (yonks ago) as Sondaarsvlei. An Englisk mapmaker asked a local what the area was called and he answered him, but with a strong "brei", so it sounded like Sondagsvlei. Back in CT the mapmaker translated this to Sunday's Glen. Over the year this changed in the local "volksmond" to Sandy's Glen - Sandy being the name of one of the locals, and when new maps were subsequently made, this is what appeared as the proper name. No idea if this story is true, but it is rather lovely!

  9. Hi from Kathy who loved your mom's Open garden...
    My maiden name is Trollip, a descendant of William Trollip who settled on the farm Daggaboer in 1839.
    I checked in a book on the Trollips, written by Doris Trollip Gordon, re the origin of the name. The friendly parting words "Goodbye, Farmer" or in Afrikaans, "Dag,ou Boer" is one theory. The other is that, "many years before, the farm had been owned by an old Boer farmer, who had made capital out of the abundant dagga which grew on the farm, exchanging it for ivory, cattle and skins brought in barter by the vagrant Hottentots."

    I LOVE any postings with pictures of the Karoo - my home before I moved to cape Town. (On another Trollip family farm, not Daggaboer.)What a place!!

  10. Haha Anairam - ja nee. I admit to finding the long intense monologues of some people high on pot intensely boring. They are just amazed at something they've just discovered but, to the unbaked, the idea is simply deeply tedious blablabla.

    Hi Kathy - I would not mind a home in the Karoo. Lucky you. It feels like home. Lucky you, and it's a small white world, yes? Your theories match Charl's.


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