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.
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.
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.
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.
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…