We recently spent a few days at Serukam Farm. It is located in northern Malaysia, in a village within Sungai Petani. Xin and Fred started the farm about 2.5 years ago on a 2-acre piece of land that Xin’s grand-uncle and grand-auntie live on.
We first heard about this place from our good friend Will from FOLO Farms. Serukam Farm wasn’t just an organic farm, but a homestead. Over there, they live on the land. They grow food small-scale and organically; firstly for themselves and selling only if there is excess. While organic farms are getting more common in Malaysia, it is still rare to see people that view farming as a lifestyle rather than a business.
We have stayed at many farms before but this was our first time since having a baby! Luckily Xin was more than accommodating and gave us the nicest room – the only loft in the family house. She said that there’s no point farming if the farm can’t cater to a baby. Continue reading
Siang Yu is a friend and fellow farmer at Edible Garden City. She is also an environmentalist and translator. She is currently on a sabbatical in Indonesia. People find it funny that we full-time urban farmers choose to go to farms during leave from work. Here is the first guest post about her trip…
Earlier in January, I went to Yogyakarta because I had heard that permaculture was gaining traction there and I wanted to see it for myself. Thomas and my colleague Imran briefly mentioned Bumi Langit to me once, and I thought it would be a good idea to visit them. Bumit Langit is founded by Iskandar Waworuntu in 2006. He had started a farm in Bali prior to this and I later learned from someone else I met while travelling that Pak Iskandar went to Sumatra to learn about farming. They were a little difficult to contact – I emailed them 2 weeks before I left for Jogja, but never got a reply. So I decided to wing it and found a driver when I arrived in Jogja who could take me and my friend Adiel to Bumi Langit in Imogiri directly.
At Bumi Langit, we met Mas Salas, the person-in-charge of the warung (shop/eatery), when we decided to have dinner there. After learning that I was interested in permaculture and was keen to volunteer with them, Mas Salas sat down with us and we had a very long and engaging chat about permaculture beyond agriculture – permaculture as a lifestyle. It was meeting a kindred spirit. We spoke about capitalism, the pharmaceutical industry and the poison that is television (and Indomie haha). He emphasised the importance of differentiating between human need and human greed. We could choose to fill our lives with junk that we are told we need or we could critically decide for ourselves what the things we truly need are. Rooted in the principles of Islam, Mas Salas said, “Whether we go to heaven after we die, that is decided by God. Why don’t you make your own heaven while you are alive?”
Chickens are one of the most commonly kept livestock in the tropics. They are very productive for meat and eggs. Being small, they do not present the challenges of larger livestock like cows and pigs. All-in-all, their widespread presence in rural Asia indicate that chickens are the preferred choice for smallholdings.
Keeping chickens in battery cages has been a controversial topic of modern industrial farming. Other than the cruelty of immobilizing an animal in a cage barely its size, the widespread use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals gives rise to many health concerns. The opposite of battery cage is to let the chickens range freely over a natural vegetated environment.
Free ranging chickens
While the idea of free range sounds fantastic in theory, there are reasons that some of the farms we have visited do not let their chickens range freely. The chickens there do range but are limited to an enclosed area. Some of the reasons for not letting the chickens range freely include:
- Attack by predators like snakes, wild boars, eagles, etc.
- Hygiene considerations since the chickens will not use a designated toilet
- Messing up the garden by scratching up seedlings and eating vegetables
- Keeping the eggs to a limited area for ease of searching
There are many organic farms in Malaysia, but I have been searching for one that is not growing commercially to sell to the market. I am more interested to see subsistence agriculture rather than market-oriented agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is when the farmer grows to feed the family and sell the produce only if there is excess. There is a big difference between both. Permaculture Perak is one of the few that I found. It is located in the state of Perak in northern Malaysia, a short drive from charming Lenggong town. To access the land, you would most likely need a 4-wheel drive because of the steep uphill climb into 500m altitude.
Approaching the main house, with a fruiting durian tree beside it!
Ladia and Amy live on the land with their two year old daughter and newborn son. Their neighbours are gibbons, wild boars, snakes, scorpions, and every once in a while an elephant who ransacks the kitchen for soy sauce. The only human neighbours are far away, down in the town of Lenggong. Continue reading
After leaving Mindful Farm on the second day of 2015, we once again hopped on to our neglected motorcycle and went on the road. After taking a few wrong turns, getting lost, and asking around, we finally got to our next destination – Maejo Baandin. Maejo is the name of the village, “baan” means home in Thai, and “din” is earth. Not surprisingly, we were greeted by many beautiful mud structures in the premise.
Found the entrance at last!
Maejo village is a remote village located 2 hours drive North of Chiangmai city. In this village within walking distance to one another, there are three places that promote sustainable living – Maejo Baandin, Pun Pun, and Panya Project. Pun Pun promotes mud building and seed saving for self-reliance. Panya Project is a community of volunteers and they regularly teach permaculture courses. Continue reading