Gardening for Cheetahs

The garden site as a blank slate.

The garden site as a blank slate.

Way back in early February, I began building a diverse organic vegetable garden at CCF’s center, right next to the ambassador cheetahs’ enclosure. The main garden site is about 30 by 60 feet and features long straight beds demonstrating farm scale vegetable production, as well as keyhole beds demonstrating home scale gardening with meandering pathways. As part of a greater effort towards environmentally friendly practices and wise resource use, CCF is interested in producing fresh vegetables to feed people consuming food onsite daily – more than 40 staff and volunteers, visitors to the Cheetah Café, and guests of Babson House luxury accommodation. A study from 2005 showed Namibia to be importing 80% of its fruits and vegetables, mostly from South Africa. Localizing food production will not only help CCF reduce the environmental and social impacts of transporting food, but will also provide fresher, tastier, more nutritious meals and save money.

Me and my gardening buddy, Petrus, shaping beds after loads of manure were applied and some tractoring happened.

Me and my gardening buddy, Petrus, shaping beds after loads of manure were applied and some tractoring happened.

Rising to the challenge of heavy clay-sand soil, we used every bit of aged manure from CCF’s farm and then made use of a by-product from our Bushblok production – wood dust. All these materials were mixed into parent soil to improve fertility and organic matter content. As we prep beds for upcoming plantings, we’ll integrate the compost we are currently making from food scraps, which, as many of you know, is an essential ingredient for any organic garden.

My nursery crew - expert seed sowers.

My nursery crew – expert seed sowers.

Since we began in February, our plantings include beans, beetroot, carrots, daikon radishes, peas, squash, lettuces, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, cilantro, chard, endive, mustard, rocket, spinach, radishes, okra, and sunflowers and other flowers to attract pollinators. Soon we’ll be transplanting onions, leeks, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kohlrabi. By having this much diversity in a small space, we are able to use organic methods and keep the garden chemical-free. Big thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, based in Missouri and distributing from Petaluma, California – for donating more than 60 varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is preserving agricultural and culinary heritage by carrying the largest selection of seeds from the 19th century. Yeah! Thanks to my friends at Indian Valley Organic Farm in Novato, as well, for donating seeds for some unique leafy greens and flowers.

A bit of our seed library.

A bit of our seed library.

Newly sprouted seeds – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi.

Newly sprouted seeds – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi.

Our first planting - sunflowers, beans, beets, and carrots.

Our first planting – sunflowers, beans, beets, and carrots.

On the 3rd of April, we held a dedication event, naming this site the ‘Chewbaaka Memorial Garden’ in honor of CCF’s longstanding ambassador cheetah who passed away two years ago on this day. With plans for water conservation practices and beekeeping in the works, CCF hopes to include the Chewbaaka Memorial Garden in farmer training programs in the future.

CCF’s Executive Director Dr. Laurie Marker and team speaking at the dedication of “Chewbaaka Memorial Garden”

CCF’s Executive Director Dr. Laurie Marker and team speaking at the dedication of “Chewbaaka Memorial Garden”

University of Namibia students, CCF staff and volunteers, and visitors gather at the garden dedication

University of Namibia students, CCF staff and volunteers, and visitors gather at the garden dedication.

Good peeps at CCF - Chris with kitchen staff and volunteers.

Good peeps at CCF – Chris with kitchen staff and volunteers.

My gardening buddy Petrus weeding the beets.

My gardening buddy Petrus weeding the beets.

Thus far we’ve harvested lettuce and beet greens from the garden, and tonight we ate radishes and made a radish leaf pesto. Yum! More deliciousness to come soon…

– Jenna

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12 thoughts on “Gardening for Cheetahs

  1. daddy-o

    beautiful pics of a beautiful garden. ….it looks like a lot of sweat went into the making..l love the design of the beds.

    Reply
  2. Grandma Doreen Kulback

    What a delight to come home from grocery shopping and read your latest BLOG so full of great information and accompanying photos – such a beautiful BLUE SKY. Everyone looks healthy and happy – but how could they not be. I’ve made a special file called NAMIBIA – where all your BLOGS are housed. Congratulations to you and Chris (and Petrus (sp?) for all your hard work – and to all the other ‘helpers’ who contributed their time and talent to ensure a successful nutritional garden. Blessings to the ‘Donors’ of those much-needed Seeds – and thanks so much for sharing your BLOGS, Jenna, which I look forward to. Lots of love to you and Chris from your very proud Grandma.

    Reply
  3. lonna

    you are so amazing jenna. how wonderful that you have managed to accomplish so much. good luck with the rest of the veggies – yum yum.
    oxo

    Reply
  4. Mimi Mullen

    This endeavor is absolutely amazing; absolutely love the raised garden concept, the use of scraps from the dinner table (like my parents did) and the paths to make gardening easier. Well done Chris and Jenna. Soon your parents (Chris) and Megan will be there to enjoy the fruits (I mean vegetables–ha!) of your labor.

    Reply
  5. Ben

    Amazing, love you guys and love that you are bringing your passions and love to people and communities on the other side of the world!

    Reply
  6. Brock

    Great Jenna…. I could bet that you will be there another year… They need you and Chris…
    Always great to see the work in progress.

    Reply
  7. gregory kulbacki

    after viewing/reading this, i’m going to plant my garden…
    thanks, again, for the inspiration…so much good being done,
    learning, growing, it’s as if you’re transforming ccf…bringing all the
    good things you know and teaching them about it…good to hear you’re
    planning to raise bees, as well…will it be hard to find a colony?
    will you have to plan for predators?
    yes, i agree with another commentor that you could easily stay longer…
    so much to be done…each day a challenge with its own reward…
    love to you, chris and jenna…
    (uncle) greg

    Reply

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