by Maria Cristina Obordo
Wearing sunscreen, my most comfortable clothes and my batik blue bandana, I sprinted towards Antasari Road at 6:25am to catch a ride from my friend Bung. We were heading to the YUM Organic Farm, where we will be learning sustainable farming methods during a 2.5 hour introductory program. For weeks we were looking forward to an invigorating day out. And indeed the scenery was a welcome respite from Jakarta’s concrete jungle. We passed by tea plantations, farmlands, greenhouses and rice terraces. Blessed with sunny weather and minimal traffic, the drive was very pleasant and only took two hours. The staff gave us clear directions and were in constant communication until we found our way to Jl Mariwati. Once out of the car we felt the big difference as we breathed in the clean crisp air, stretched and scanned the clear blue sky and the mountain vista over the horizon, and relaxed as we soaked in the surrounding greenery.
We were immediately welcomed by Sisca and Vanessa, our guides from the NGO- Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM). The YUM Organic Farm, started in 2009, is an educational and sustainability project of the NGO. It offers hands-on and interactive learning in its Ecoutourism Programs and Camps.
By 9:50am all our friends arrived, have freshened up and enjoyed the organic fried cassava, boiled sweet potatoes and steamed peanuts. The snacks were simple yet tasty. I guess the beautiful environment and the anticipation of the program made the snacking more enjoyable. And so we “embarked” on an introductory organic farming short course where we got down and dirty helping (1) prepare the media (or soil) for the seedlings and plant the seedlings in the nursery; (2) make the dry compost or fertilizer; (3) chop the vegetable and plant ingredients and mix it with water to concoct the organic pest repellant; (4) plant the zucchini sprouts; and (5) choose and harvest the vegetables that we wanted to buy ourselves. Vanessa and Sisca guided us through the different stages of farming and translated the instructions in English.
It was a fun hands-on “farm-to-table” experience! And we learnt some useful and sensible information that can be applied in gardening.
Firstly, making a compost is similar to preparing lasagne and layering your beef mince sauce, béchamel sauce, cheese and lasagne sheets. Instead, you combine the leaves/vegetable and fruit leavings/grass in one layer, goat manure in the second layer, and the chicken manure and rice husk mix in the third and then add water and a fermenting formula called EM4, consisting of the sap of the banana tree, sterilized water and sugar. Wait for the ingredients to set for two weeks, and then mix. The organic fertilizer should be ready for use in two months, when it is not warm to the touch, it does not smell, and has turned brown. If the manure is not available, then you can buy dry compost from gardening shops. Secondly, you need the right media combination of soil, compost, and rice husks in planting seedlings. Adding rice husks allows the soil to have more pores to breathe. Similarly, you should not pack the soil into a dense mix. Thirdly, you can make your own organic insect repellant by pounding garlic, lemon grass, chilli, Kirinya leaves, and adding egg and water. After fermenting for 24 hours, the mixture should be ready for use. It will not kill the pests but will repel them. This is an important concept because these pests are needed for biodiversity. Also, do not use the repellant mixture on vegetables two weeks before harvesting so that it will not affect the taste. Fourthly, plant different types of crops/plants in one soil bed. Again, you should add the rice husk after loosening the soil. Make sure you add your organic compost/fertilizer before planting. The steps wasn’t that hard to do.
The culmination of our class was harvesting our own vegetables. I reveled in the opportunity to harvest the lettuce, zucchini, coriander, and spring onions that I would be using for our meal. Believe it or not, the salad that my family ate in the evening was the best salad I’ve prepared – it tasted so delicious and crisp! I am sure the romantic farm-to-table notion enhanced our appreciation.
A delectable organic Indonesian lunch was served to reward our hard work for the day. We happily tucked in and noted how we thoroughly enjoyed the farm activity. At 1:30pm we were all ready to go back to Jakarta. Our vegetable baskets on hand, we gratefully thanked the YUM Organic Farm staff for the wonderful day. We felt happy and ready to face the city again. The two hour ride home wasn’t that bad. We enjoyed an invigorating and educational day out and it was worth the ride!
The YUM Organic Farm is located in Jl. Mariwati, Sindang Layung, Desa Cibadak Kecamatan Sukaresmi, Cipanas, West Java. Contact Number: 0263 – 514 805. For more details, please visit http://www.yumindonesia.org/organicfarmcipanas/