Bulldozer flattens organic farm: What’s happening at the Relau agro centre?

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Bad news folks. I wrote the article (see bottom) about the organic farm known as the Wonder Wilderfarm at the Relau Agricultural Park on 12 January 2017. On Monday, 23 August, four days ago, a bulldozer flattened the farm – without any notice, from what I hear, and with hardly any time for the tenant to salvage whatever she could (though she has now been given three weeks to remove her stuff).

Have a look at this Facebook link to see what happened.

This is a great pity, as we badly need to showcase viable organic farms in an era when the use of pesticide-laden or genetically modified crops is so widespread elsewhere. It could have been a model to inspire others. Why the need for bulldozers to trample over the farm? What kind of message does that send?

The farm had been operating for several years now. True, the plots are for entrepreneurs as a short-term incubation to see if their project ideas are viable, but this whole area has also been coveted by developers. So hopefully the centre will inform the public what it has in mind for the whole area.

About a decade ago, the Penang government think tank, the Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute (Seri), the forerunner to Penang Institute, came up with a blueprint for an agro-tourism centre, which could have saved this site. But apparently, the plan was shelved for lack of a budget. If there is now a budget, the state government must let us know what it has in mind for this site, and hopefully it will involve sustainable organic farming.

Back to the earth: Penang’s green pearl in Relau

Loi Mei Shy, organic farmer at Relau

Not many Penangites are aware of a lovely green haven in southern Penang that lies in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of traffic and towering apartment blocks nearby.

Here at the Relau Agro-tourism Centre enterprising folk are involved in little farming ventures on plots of land typically ranging from a quarter of an acre to one-and-half acres.

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One runs a lotus pond, almost two or three acres large, that produces lotus flowers and lotus seeds.

A couple of others breed goats (for the milk and meat) and catfish. Seedlings for fruit trees and flowers are grown in three nurseries. A starfruit orchard looks as if it could have come straight out of the Garden of Eden.

https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/n494z4
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All in, there are about five active farmers with another three taking care of the lily pond and the goat farm. Of some public interest are a couple of organic farms.

One of the organic farmers is Loi Mei Shy, who previously farmed in Balik Pulau for three and a half years with a friend. When the owner decided to take back the land there, the USM graduate found another plot at the Relau centre, which serves as an ‘incubation’ centre for those who want to start ventures in farming and related activities.

For Mei Shy, who comes from Kedah, work on the farm is far removed from her undergraduate major in special education. On her one-and-a-half acre farm, she grows bayam, kai lan, brinjal, corn, papaya, roselle, lemon grass, and amra.

For fertiliser, she uses compost – and manure from the goat farm. I ask her what kind of pesticides she uses. She looks surprised. “No pesticides.. the ladybugs eat the aphids.”

Her farm also sells fresh produce and processed organic foodstuff to walk-in customers and organic shops around Penang. Stuff like vinegar, tea, dry herbs, chilly sauce, corn flour, corn meal, and roselle jam. I bought a couple of bottles of organic roselle jam and chilly sauce. Not bad at all.

Every first Sunday of the month, she and half a dozen other farmers organise a farmers’ market.

She pays a monthly rental of RM100 to the state for her plot. That may sound cheap but it is hard work in the sun that few want to try. Drops of sweat roll down her face as, armed with a shovel, she wades through her nursery under the shade of a canopy. It is back to the earth and nature, and Mei Shy has been toiling here for three years already – but she seems to draw immense satisfaction from the experience.

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Visiting the place is an eye-opener for urbanities who have never been to a farm, much less an organic outfit. Until I visited this centre, though I enjoy roselle juice, I had never seen a roselle plant. This is what it looks like:

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At the back of their minds, the farmers and smallholders worry as over the years they have heard rumours that developers are coveting the land here. “Some say (they want to build) a hotel, others say condos and a mall,” said one farmer.

The farmers are on two-year tenancy agreements. Some of these agreements expired in September last year but were extended to April this year. Mei Shy’s own tenancy agreement expires in April 2017, and last year there was a bit of uncertainty about what would happen after that. But it looks as if the farmers will be allowed to remain – for now.

“We hope we can get more information and that the government will keep this place – because farming is very important to humans,” said a farmer. “It involves what we eat and do everyday.”

Further away, another organic farmer grows kai lan, various types of lettuce, sawi, pak choy, kale (a ‘super food’), swiss chard, arugula (salad or garden rocket) and sweet basel, which are supplied to organic restaurants. This is a photo of rocket and misome, an all-season Japanese leafy green, growing at the centre:

https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157671621023644/with/29671140650/

He has been working this half-acre plot for seven to eight years and sells his produce directly to customers apart from providing home deliveries for those in surrounding areas such as Sungai Ara, Queensbay and Bukit Jambul.

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I find him hard at work, but he takes a few moments to speak to me. “We love farming but we don’t have the land. This is our career. It is not a part-time job.

The work is not easy. “We are the ones toiling and sweating to produce quality organic produce. You work on organic things … you have to have passion. Otherwise, with the irregular income and long hours, you won’t continue for long.”

The farmers believe it is important for them to remain in an urban centre as they can raise awareness among urbanites and visitors about where the food they eat comes from and why organic farming is so important.

“This place is centrally located and it is easy for people to come. Those who are concerned about the food and environment actually live in the city and its easier for them to drop by and get exposure. If we are further away from urban centres, the significance of organic farming is less.”

In a sense, this idyllic setting is the last bastion of Relau’s farming past. Bit by bit, the area around this centre has given way to so-called “development” as towers sprout all around this green lung. The Relau Agro-tourism Centre sits on what, to developers, would be prime land.

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The farmers are hoping they can continue to provide pesticide-free natural food to urbanites as an alternative to chemically laced vegetables and fruit commonly found in our markets.

The centre could also be used as a source of education for urbanites, including schoolchildren, opening their eyes to organic farming and natural food. Courses could be conducted to stir interest in going back to Nature for our food sources. Who knows, there could be other young Mei Shys in our midst.

Public support for this centre is crucial so that it will remain a green hub, showcasing an alternative, more earthy, natural and healthier way of growing our food.

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glissantia

Despite the hype, vertical farming has difficulties:
– Constraint on structural load for the buildings/roofs.
– Pollution due to addiction to fossil fuel.
– LEDs/light tubes etc. indoors unproven; perhaps only for high-value crops in dense, urban centres.

Esme

Vertical farming in urban environment in Singapore has been very successful.

Ray of Light

Penang Transporr Master Plan looks like GAGAL now? No LRT and underwater tunnel activity happening so far?
If so the consultation fees (total enormously how much ?) for feasibility studies appear to bear no fruit for the people? The money could have been better invested in sustainable agro farming to provide affordable food for the locals?
These are questions the voters to think of leading to GE15 local election???

shriek

how small is agro farming? over 2000 football sizes and size of pengland? You employed an architect, pengland gomen dont pay progress fees? You expect architect to survived for 6 to 12 months on ais kosong?

glissantia

Together with regenerative forestry, organic farming has the potential to neutralise the bulk of the greenhouse gases that humanity now spews – mostly in “advanced” countries.

Simplicity, honest trade and cooperation are antithetical to plutocracy. If caught out, it will quote outrageous regulations or claim a “break-down in communication”. The Green Revolution gave the world Frankenstein crops, deadly agro-chemicals, destructive farming, ensalving finance, land grabs and rigged food markets. The medical industry is a major beneficiary.

luca

Report: Chinese developer of Johor’s Forest City laying off Malaysian staff as sales plummet

https://www.malaymail.com/amp/news/malaysia/2021/09/01/report-chinese-developer-of-johors-forest-city-laying-off-malaysian-staff-a/2002052

Backlash from the new MM2H rulings?

shriek

Did the developer asking for $$ help as compare to many business and factories?

luca

Relau agro centre suffered the same fate as those Musang King durian plantations in Raub? Issue of land ownership?

shriek

Ask tunlan. His bright spark ideas suggestions that Penglanf Gomen has $$$ to do this and that – many projects. P brain no need $$. Photocopy or scan $$?

Esme

Malaysia could perhaps could adopt Singapore’s approach by using hydroponics on roofs of car park structures and installing urban farms into existing unutilised buildings.

As it only requires a quarter of the size of a traditional farm to produce the same quantity of vegetables, the vertical rooftop system would yield more than four times compared to conventional farming. At the same time, it also reduces the need to clear land for agricultural use while avoiding price fluctuation.

https://theaseanpost.com/article/turning-empty-spaces-urban-farms-malaysia

shriek

$$ is king, $$ can do everything. China has $$, P*g live in high rise … China rear P*gs in high rise … Central gomen pokkai. Booster jabs for Covid required soon. Israel started to have the 3rd jab.

Kamelia

Le­bih 20 peratus daripada pengeluaran sayur-sayuran yang dihasilkan dari kebun-kebun di sekitar kawasan tanah tinggi Cameron Highlands, Pahang dieksport ke negara jiran Singapura pada setiap hari yang mendapat permintaan tinggi sekali gus menguntungkan pengusaha tanaman itu. Sayur-sayuran yang dihantar ke negara jiran itu dengan menggunakan lori itu juga adalah terdiri daripada gred A yang berkualiti tinggi berbanding gred B yang dijual di pasaran tempatan. Salah seorang pemimpin Persatuan Pekebun Cameron Highlands, Datuk Syed Abdul Rahman Syed Abdul Rashid berkata, beberapa pengeluar sayur sayuran di Cameron Highlands dianggarkan memperoleh pendapatan sehingga RM1 juta sehari hasil jualan yang dieksport ke beberapa buah… Read more »

Foh

More and more Malaysians and local enterprises are depending on SingDollar for living.

Boh

3x the purchasing power with Singapore Dollar!
No wonder more Malaysians are now singing to the tune of ‘Majulah Singapura’!

shriek

1/4 Pengland kias those talent ones have left to Sing apor. Only unthinkable ones are left behind and talent in KBKB

luca

Why do Penangites move to Singapore? An interview with Arty Guava

https://www.penang-insider.com/why-penangites-move-to-singapore/

shriek

not 1/4 bright Pengland Kias but more as 1/2 of her classmates left. What left behinh Malaysia are those 2nd rate to fit in lower class as wanted by Wyatt and Teh susu preferred gomen. M boleh

Anna Sternfeldt

Great stuff!

Fanny

How many Penang Kia of today is willing to be farmer?

Zhang Weixiong

Those unemployed graduates should consider this as a means to do something meaningful and earn the needed money.

luca

On the hindsight Weixiong is right. If unemployed graduates turn urban farmer 3 years ago they are now earning good money in today’s pandemic time when food price is soaring.

shriek

In west and Sink apor, farmers are not like Pengland fishermen only hunt for fishes. They put their skills and knowledge to best use. They apply high tech, research and increase productivity and hence their INCOME.

zoro

tun lang can join her and green penang since he is not migrating to belum

tunglang

Why you so kay-po?
Anyway, Orang Bunian think you are kay-bo!

zoro

of course kay po.you always bark and talk big and lament about your belum valley. otherwise just another talker and joker who preacher and never do.

luca

The origin story of shriek can be traced back to zoro. The love-hate relationship with tunglang has come a long way in anilverse. Wyatt was evolved from Gerakan K of anilverse phase 1, signed off after Dominic could not get into PM9 cabinet even as a deputy minister when MCA got 3.

luca

Tunglang,

What is your verdict on this 50-year old Penang Wan Tan Mee?

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

If Penang CAT gomen has genuine intention for Greener, Cleaner Penang, it should reserve at least 10% of lands for agro-purposes.
Food & water sufficiently is going to be an issue in the future should other states decide to ‘take care’ of their own people’s food + water needs.
Over development for property industry won’t save us from food crisis. CAT gomen pls take note.
Weight the opportunity costs not in terms of land prices but food security for a happy vote bank.

Disgruntled Penangite

The so-called tokong is now ruling Penang state with iron-fists. Whosoever opposes him will sure be duly dealt with ! It’s now famous with a Penang merchant operating Kaffa cafe being persecuted left and right (by calling him a tyrant). ttp://www.kwongwah.com.my/?p=254506

Tay SL

Kaffa King does not have a proper and approved grease trap:
http://www.orientaldaily.com.my/north/bm20205047

zoro

you supporr $¥££€ profiteers without regard to proper toilet? discharge goes kopi o kau kau.try to be like bad old days of gilakan

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

This traditional farming may not be viable in the future as increase in population = increase in demand for food = increase in demand for already scarce land for agro-production.
Farmers should start thinking about alternative methods like vertical farming which doesn’t require large tracts of farm land. Or hydroponics which doesn’t need a soil base.
There are pros & cons in these alternative farming methods but the future scenario (change in weather patterns, disruptive rain supply, acid rain, drought) may force farmers to innovate or die.
Here are the alternatives:
Vertical farming
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming
Hydroponics
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroponics
Aquaponics
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics

zoro

Developers building high-rise oredi plan for future and yet why kau beh kau bu over planning for the future? Dedak loves to complain

tunglang

For what future? Mumbling is noise!

zoro

Barking and kau beh kau bu is the worse. what traditional farming has no future? with 4wds … have no future.

Tay SL

Vertical farming is growing in Singapore. From just one in 2012, there are now seven licensed vertical farms producing vegetables, fish and crab. These farms use high-tech and high-yield methods to overcome the limitations of traditional farming and transform their work into lucrative businesses. Vertical farming is also gaining popularity because the farms optimise land use in land-scarce Singapore and can operate on minimal manpower.

See the full report and pictures here:
http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/vertical-farms-on-the-rise-in-land-scarce-singapore

tunglang supports Bersih 5 & coming Bersih 6

Vertical farming can be done on rooftops of high-rise buildings as they are often left unused. Time for developers to plan such rooftop spaces with water & electricity amenities for vertical farming pursuits. Landed properties have ample spaces (side gardens, airwells, etc) for vertical gardening provided these spaces have sunlight, or just instal lightings for 24 hr artificial sunlight. Schools can initiate vertical farming at their car parks, fencings, gardens & side of basketball courts. Komtar 5th level open spaces are potential places for state gomen to lead the way of Greener, Cleaner Penang with vertical farming. And zoro can… Read more »

zoro

Another … coming out of belum valley trying to be snake oil man try to attest carrots are stable food for donkeys. Better for this belum to turn vertical farming into belum mountain…

tunglang

Copy-cat & lack of substance is a hallmark of Komtar Dedak! Better make it a combo: Komtar Dedak + Carrot (for improved twisting)

zoro

another round of snake oil. if you want to dont bluff. where do you learn carrots are stable food for donkeys?…

zoro

komtar needs volunteers to SHOW n DO it. nor big talker.

glissantia

Thanks for this touch of sanity in the insane world of capitalism. In USSR, most of the food came from the private lots alloted to farmers to use during off-duty hours, not from the giant collectives.

Disgruntled Penangite

Let Penang stays like that for the next 30 years please !

zoro

you get your wish. vote PAS.see.kelantan

Mike Shum

Ideal Properties may be eyeing after that green plot of land for project expansion to accomodate “residents” of Penang ?

Jimmy Cheong

Ideal Properties and it’s Condo King is commended as winner of Noble Excellence Award on The Sun today for its CSR effort in Penang.

Christine

Yes, grow more vegetables and eat more vegetables.
Eat less meat especially beef to slow down global warming, watch this video to understand why:

SB65

According to the “Before The Flood” documentary, 70% of US agricultural is used to grow food for cattle livestocks in order to meet the hugh demand for beef! So much methane gas is emitted to the atmosphere.