Undoubtedly, the dining experiences of dining at the table are becoming more and more familiar to Malaysians. But if you’re in the Klang Valley, you’ll find that most use newer cultivation methods, such as hydroponics.
If you are in the city, it is not surprising that this is a more suitable method of cultivation, as we see the little land we have to cultivate above the less than ideal environment of the city.
But outside the city, especially in Pahang, there are more farms able to work with the vast land they have, like this 6-acre farm in Janda Baik, a small farm on the hill.
Despite not having as much land to work with, the farmers behind it want to follow conventional farming methods on their farm.
Agriculture was not initially in his plans
Urbanites Lisa Ngan and Pete Neo found love by living off the network in what was originally supposed to be Lisa’s father’s retirement garden. But little by little, this hobby became a vision of agriculture for themselves.
7 years ago, the duo started working on their farm together, but were not very successful in cultivating their crops in the early years.
“We didn’t even have home-grown plants, let alone know how to grow vegetables or manage a farm. But between learning from the Internet, books and friends of farmers, we were able to acquire enough skills along the way, ”Pete shared with Vulcan Post.
“We often tell people we’re ‘Google farmers’ and we’re not kidding at all.”
Today they grow a variety of 30 to 40 types of herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruits. “We prefer to cultivate crops that will work well in cooler climates. But we often grow things specifically for certain customers and they can also be lowland crops, ”he added.
Because they understand that they cannot compete on price or volume against larger industrial farms, they diversify and specialize.
They are all grown in small or medium batches and supplied to restaurants like Dewakan, Atas, Sitka, Table & Apron, Ember and Entier, to name a few.
Lots on the plate
Lisa and Pete, meanwhile, decided to focus on nurturing the community when it comes to building their own farm-to-table attraction. As a result, his farm is filled with activities such as cheese-making classes, yoga classes, gardening classes, because the city’s 40-minute drive is well worth the trip.
“The biggest challenge here is how to balance our desire to contribute to the community with our need to survive as a company. The second is mainly a factor of financial calculation and the first of passion “, clarified Pete.
“It is not always possible to meet both criteria, but we try. What we don’t do is run the business based solely on the principles of profit maximization. ”
Compared to the city’s farms that use newer farming methods, you could say they have more to juggle on the plate. There aren’t many farm-to-table restaurants that have to deal with their own compost, repair the tractor, or worry about crop yields, but they do.
Traditional agriculture with the help of some technology
Although these people do not use hydroponics, aquaponics and newer cultivation methods, they do not shy away from agritech. Pete thinks his work on the farm leans toward ethical and strategic challenges compared to physical challenges.
In addition to streamlining manual processes to make the workforce more efficient, they also use agritech to have:
- automated irrigation and air systems;
- integrated online systems between frontend sales and backend accounting;
- integrated customer ordering, harvesting and delivery systems;
- an in-house wiki and a company message board that everyone can access from their mobile phones.
“As has been said, beneath the farm’s rural idyll is actually a solid digital trunk that holds it all together,” Pete proudly shared.
Confident that they will survive the pandemic
Due to MCO, they have pivoted on deliveries of their farm-to-table meals. This is to help amortize your dinner sales which have fallen by 75%.
“We made losses marginally last year and expect to be very red this year because of the MCO. But we are cautious with our reserves since the MCO started and we are confident of surviving the crisis,” Pete said. .
In fact, they kept all their staff despite the struggles and even hired more last August because they were scarce.
“Staff morale and motivation have remained high despite these harsh circumstances,” he said of his most accomplished pride during the pandemic.
There are currently 11 employees working with Lisa and Pete on the farm. Because farm workers are an integral part of keeping farm operations operational, the founders are not sparing to look for them.
Its staff has accommodation on a small farm located on the hill, where most have rooms and sanitary facilities, WiFi access, microwave ovens, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, safes, etc. They are also provided with medical insurance.
There is a library that everyone can use to improve themselves, as the duo believes in growing not only professionally but also as a person. Non-English speaking staff also receive free English classes. So far, this investment in its staff has yielded positive results for the farm.
“We have no ambitions to build empires. We would be happy to perfect our modest farm for the rest of our lives, ”concluded Pete. “You really can’t ask for much more than that.”
- You can find out more about a small farm on the hill here.
- You can learn more about other emerging agriculture-related businesses we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Lisa Ngan and Pete Neo, founders of a small farm on the hill