Vergenoegd Estate

Stellenbosch, South Africa | C.1773

Photo Credit: Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate

Vergenoegd Löw is one of the oldest wineries and farms in South Africa, but the estate in Stellenbosch boasts a more unusual claim to fame. A huge and growing flock of Indian Runner Ducks call it home, parading every day into the vineyard to get rid of pests.

Dutch farmer Pieter de Vos obtained a land grant from the Dutch East India Company in 1696, and named the farm “Vergenoegd.” The Dutch word means “content” or “cheerful.” Located beside the Eerste River, the land was very fertile and ideal for farming. 

Johannes Colyn bought the homestead in 1773, adding the ‘holbol’ gable to the house and embossing it with “1773” and an incorrectly spelt ‘Vergenoegt’. Fifty years later, Johannes Faure purchased the estate and began its wine-making tradition. The Vergenoegd Wine Estate remained with the Faure family for another six generations.

In a quest for natural pest control, the staff at the farm began breeding a small flock of ducks in 1984. Runner Ducks had a history of use in Asia for pest control in rice paddies, and they proved successful at Vergenoegd as well. The duck’s upright stature gives them the ability to pluck snails from high up on the trunk while being skinny enough to fit between the vines. They eat the pests, and their poop fertilizes the vines. It’s a win-win.

Today, the farm has nearly 2,000 Runner Ducks. Every morning at 10:30, they emerge from a gate and zip around the white manor house in formation, following a manicured gravel path. They patrol 140 acres (56.6 ha) of farm for about five hours a day, five days a week. The ducks even have their own bodyguards. Several geese live among the flock, scaring away any owl or mongoose that dares threaten them.

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