Visit Irene Farm, the Farm within the City

Irene Farm boasts several historic buildings. Image: Gwen Mlondobozi

A dairy farm nestled between Johannesburg and Pretoria, Irene carries a rich history, yet is a functional economic contributor to the city. The farm is still owned by the family that purchased it over 100 years ago and is open to the public to learn. On a visit to Irene Farm, you can marvel at where milk comes from, take in the history and make the most of the country atmosphere.

History of Irene Farm

Irene Farm, located in Centurion, Gauteng, is drenched in Voortrekker history. The farm dates back to the 1830s when a Voortrekker, Daniel Elardus Erasmus left what was then the Cape Colony to settle in what is today known as Nellmapius. At his death in 1875 the farm sat at 5 136 hectares and was split between his 3 sons. In 1881 the first Anglo-Boer War occurred in and around the area of the Irene Farm. Years after the war one of Erasmus’s sons sold a portion of his land to a business owner Alois Hugo Nellmapius who then established a dairy farm which he named after his daughter Irene.

Between 1883 and 1893 Nellmapius took on many projects on the farm, from building a farmhouse, a barn, a stable and a forest to entertaining President Paul Kruger. After falling ill, Nellmapius passed away in July 1893. In 1896 the Irene estate went on auction and was purchased by J. A. van der Byl who tried to grow and establish the Irene Farm until the second Anglo-Boer War which halted the development. It was during this war that the Irene Concentration Camp was established. It was inhabited by over 5000 people, mostly women and children, and resulted in the death of 1000 children.

The war finally ended in 1902 when van der Byl set about rehabilitating the farm and established Irene Village. A tree nursery was built, the first hotel was established, and the Pretoria Anglican Church opened a House of Mercy to care for women and girls in Irene which is known today as Irene Homes.

The other portions of the farm were purchased by General Jan Christian Smuts from Erasmus’ other sons. In 1922 van der Byl died in a flying accident; however, the farm stayed in the family and they still run and own it. Over the years the full portion of the Nellmapius’ Irene Farm became part of the city known as Irene. Some areas are state land, yet most are private commercial land.

What’s the Farm Like Today?

The farm is owned by the fifth generation of the van der Byl family. The dairy farm is still in operation and hosts events and functions such as weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. It is open daily to visitors with two restaurants and a farm deli that, of course, sells fresh milk and other grocery items.

The farmhouse, built between 1889 and 1896, still stands along with the stables and the barn. In fact, when you visit Irene Farm, you’ll find that there are bits of history lying around the grounds, from old fuel pumps to farming implements. While not everyone is interested in Voortrekker history, Irene offers a fascinating glimpse into agricultural heritage.

There’s nothing like exploring our country and Irene is a great day trip for those in Gauteng. Entrance to the farm is free, making it a great location for a walk in the beautiful green scenery. It is interactive in that you get to watch the cows get milked and learn from the experience of ‘where milk comes from’ and how cows are cared for.

Why You Should Visit Irene Farm

The natural landscape creates a relaxing atmosphere. Image: Gwen Mlondobozi

Visiting Irene Farm is an educational experience yet a fun one. It is a walk through a part of South African history and its present too. The experience allows you to have relaxing moments in the ‘countryside’ — except you are in the city.  It’s worth an afternoon drive-by and you can go home with a jar of fresh milk, if you choose to!

  • Location: Irene Farm, Nellmapius Drive, Irene, 0062
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Operating hours: Open every day of the week from 7 am to 5 pm.

Gwen Mlondobozi

Gwen is a writer with a love for economics. She holds a BCom in Business Management and is currently studying towards her BCom in Economics. She believes that every day requires integrity, courage and hard work...although she falls short most days, every day she works towards this.

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