Building Organic - Part II - Farm life
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Thursday, February 06, 2014
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part II of a III part series.


Farm Life

By Kevin Su

Journal entry 1

Waking up to the chatter of the metal workers transported me out of my sleep and back into a 2 story shipping container filled with mattresses. Pale morning light illuminated the stained walls of the room as I stumbled around for my glasses. Most of the volunteers had already headed out for their morning tasks. I intended to do the same. The thought of working into the afternoon blistering sun made me shudder. The temperature at high noon would be unbearable so I put on some long sleeves and headed out.

We had a large lime order today of 40kgs. Some local restaurants were happy that we could deliver quality fruits at a reasonable price. Many of these 24 hr restaurants barely had time to go shop for supplies so you can imagine their enthusiasm when Arafat offered them delivery service.

I walked out to lime crops and the girls from Hong Kong were about a third of a bucket in. Wahid, the caretaker of the property for over 8 years, was noisily trimming back the tall grass surrounding the crops with his trusty weed wacker. He always seems to work with a smile on his face. It must be a refreshing change for him to have energetic volunteers working on the property. I find it hard to imagine how a single man could have managed upkeeping 9 acres of land for so many years.

Inspired by Wahid’s smile, I was also happy to be harvesting today. It was a quiet break from working on the building. We were worn out from a whole week of demolishing, sanding and painting the entire metal structure. The welders today were putting in some new joints under the supervision of AG. Nick was working on the compost project with Elena. Bart and Brad were putting in the walls and finishing touches to Arafats new shelter. Everyone else was harvesting lime and coconuts.

Harvesting small calamansi limes is a tedious but relaxing task. The trick to finding the perfect lime is to find a bright green one just starting to turn yellow and ripen. The dark green ones are too hard, and the yellow or orange ones are too ripe and sour. This dizzying game of spotting perfect limes meanders you through rows tightly placed bushes. It is mostly a flawless dance of picking and threading plants until you occaisionally put your hand on a lime infested with a fiesty red ant colony.

Three quarters of a bucket by noon. Hopefully we had enough for our order and extra to sell at our weekly fruit stand. I was ready to head into shade and change out my sweat drenched t-shirt. I couldn’t wait for our daily curry feast supplied by a nearby indian restaurant.

We had just made the planter boxes the other day and we were waiting for some good soil before we started growing food crops. Until we started growing our own food we all chipped in for indian food and groceries. Today’s chef for dinner was Karolina and I couldn’t wait to try some Polish food. Fruits on the other hand were always abundant. The perfect refreshment after work was a fresh cut young coconut. There were always enough coconuts for everyone.

Journal entry 2

There was a sense of excitement today as we prepped the fruit stand for our first time. We had buckets of calamansi and kaffir limes. The stand was well stocked with an exotic spread like I have never seen before including coconuts, starfruit, papayas, jack fruit and a sugar cane press ready to make some fresh sugar cane juice. The assortment was colourful and impressive and even though it was our first day I was confident people would turn their heads. We had been getting local attention all week as they were confused on why so many foreigners were coming in and out of a metal factory. Soon enough our first costumers pulled over on their puttering motorbike.

“We grow all these fruits in our farm right here! Very fresh!” chimed the girls from Hong Kong in perfect unison. Melody and Bell were proving to be amazing sales people. The old Malaysian couple were very curious as to how such a peculiar assortment of young adults came to be at this fruit stand. Two Chinese girls, a polish couple, a french Canadian, a french woman and a taiwanese Canadian. The language barrier proved to be thick and I don’t think they ever got their curiosity satisfied but they did walk away with some fresh juicy organic limes and a very interesting story to tell their village folk. I am sure more of their friends would return next week.

fruitstand from Kevin Su Photography on Vimeo.

click for part I , part III of the Building Organic series

Leave a comment:
Kevin Su - The entire region is rich with different kind of farms. Unfortunately a lot of them are Palm Plantations. There is a fruit stand a 5 min drive away but we seem to be the only fruit stand on this side of the road. The other place to buy produce would be Tesco (the equivalent to Walmart) which has a large selection but it is more expensive and obviously not organic.
Andy - Are there many fruit stands in the area? How far of a commute to the grocery stores or markets? Are you the only farm close by?