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Shared food garden unites Western Cape community

written by Kgaogelo Letsebe
What started as a gardening hobby for Bradlene Amelia Baadtjies-Callacher (32) from Tesselaarsdal in the Western Cape has become an award-winning ‘garden of kindness’.

Bradlene Amelia Baadtjies- Callacher from Tesselaarsdal in the Western Cape.Baadtjies-Callacher's garden was recognised as the best in the youth category (household gardens) and second runner-up in the household garden category in the recent Overberg Food Garden Competition.

The Western Cape MEC for Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, says the competition is in line with the department’s One Home, One Garden Campaign, which encourages communities to produce food sustainably.

“The campaign is a drive to combat the high levels of food insecurity and promote the well-being of local communities,” he says.

Baadtjies-Callacher says her love of gardening was cultivated by her father. “In 2020, when the national lockdown was announced, I turned my father’s backyard into a garden of kindness. Having lost my job and my start-up baking business being on hold, I found my happiness in gardening.”

Baadtjies-Callacher also invited young children who were struggling at home to join her programme. “I knew if I could share my garden with them, their problems would be forgotten – even if only for a short while. This is why I call it my garden of kindness; everything that is done here is fuelled by kindness.

“At present, I work with three young men, three young women and four children who come on a weekly rotation.”

She grows turmeric, chives, ginger, garlic, artichokes, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beans and cabbage. “Nothing goes to waste. We pick, preserve, resell and share most of our produce. We live in a high-flood area and at times are unable to access shops, so the preserved food becomes handy. We also share seedlings and compost so others can also create their own gardens," says Baadtjies-Callacher.

She adds that she is proud of her achievements, but more so her ability to give back to the community. “Food is important, but it is even more important to produce your own. It is healthier and more nutritious.”

Baadtjies-Callacher gives the following pointers for food gardening:

•   Do some research and decide what you are going to plant.

•   Cordon off your gardening space to keep it safe.

•   Turn over your soil to get it ready for planting.

•   Tend to your garden by watering and ploughing.

•   Be patient.