When you think of fresh produce, do you picture a grocery store or a garden? We visited the Angama Mara Camp in southwest Kenya, situated atop the Oloololo escarpment looking out over the vast plains of the Masai Mara. Here, where elephants, giraffe, buffalo, and zebra roam freely, there are no grocery stores, no refrigerated aisles stocked with assorted produce.

The only source of vegetables to feed the guests at the lodge is the nearby garden, or ‘shamba,’ located a kilometer away down a dirt road. After visiting the shamba, we had gained a new appreciation for our lunch salad, a hearty mix of lettuce, spinach, beetroots, carrots, and radish, as well as a new perspective on what it means to be “farm to table.”

Wiki, one of the hosts at Angama Mara, and Naliki, the shamba manager, took us on a tour of the garden, and taught us about the many techniques they have incorporated to ensure a consistent supply of vegetables for the lodge.

Water remains the number one challenge in this semi arid region of east Africa. Naliki wakes early each morning to water the garden before the hot sun rises, and stays until late in the afternoon to water again. He carefully covers the base of each plant with mulch to help retain the moisture and reduce evaporation. He has constructed an intricate maze of berms and terraces, designed to prevent erosion and control the flow of water to each crop. He has also built two water storage dams to collect and store water during the occasional rains.

Outside the fence that surrounds the garden is a string of cowbells to warn of encroaching elephants and other large animals. Inside is a half-acre plot blooming with a beautiful array of leafy greens, aromatic herbs, and thriving crops. So as you eat your plate of veggies, or enjoy a fresh salad, consider the nurturing hands and knowledgeable farmer behind the food on your table.

September 2016 — Masai Mara, Kenya