Being able to visit a farm, pick their produce, then consume it in their on-site restaurant tends to be a pretty fulfilling experience. It just hits you with a sense of appreciation for the meal like no other.
Hidden inside Kampung Pulau Meranti of Puchong is an organic plantation that gives you that farm-to-table experience. Known as Bug’s Paradise Farm, it’s where you can plant, pick, and enjoy your veggies in a plant-based steamboat restaurant.
You Eat What You Pick
Most of us recognise organic vegetables from their labels, stacked neatly on racks in a supermarket. From their packaging, we know their names, but how often have you wondered how they were grown?
Thus, Bug’s Paradise opened up its gates, allowing tourists and locals to step in and take a tour around its farm.
Throughout the guided tour, its General Manager, Zhan Hui, will chat about how the vegetables are grown, along with the team’s experiences growing it. Visitors can also grow some vegetables on the farm and return periodically to observe their sprouting.
“And the farm tour will end with a special lunch box (as our cooking principal is plant-based, organic, and original taste). We hope everyone can taste fresh vegetables as they are much more nutritious and taste better than others,” its sales and marketing manager Cheo Yee Jing told Vulcan Post.
After a month or 2, visitors who’ve planted a seed can revisit the farm to harvest their vegetables. They could also head to the farm’s steamboat restaurant to enjoy the fruits (or veggies, in this case) of their labour.
Partnering With A Known Player
The reason for Bug’s Paradise’s concept is because organic produce tastes the best right after they’ve been plucked from the ground, according to the team. “At the same time, you will also shorten the food miles, making it environmentally friendly too,” Cheo explained.
Dictionary Time: Food miles is the distance food is transported from the time of its making until it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used when testing the environmental impact of food, such as the carbon footprint of the food.
Wanting to bring this idea to life, the team from Kluang connected with a partner at a startup competition who was a higher-up in BMS Organics that shared the same vision.
“Why don’t we just join [BMS Organics] in the capital of Malaysia which has more resources to start a business than a small town?” Cheo recalled him saying, “So we joined him in Puchong to work out this project.”
Together, the team found a small 2-acre farm hidden in the city, reminding me of the petting zoo our team recently visited, Farm In The City. Bug’s Paradise actually shares several similarities with the zoo, as visitors don’t only come for leisure but also to learn about the animals and plants across the lands.
“We’re not just growing vegetables to sell. We grow a variety of plants and bring more people closer to nature, hoping that more people can join us as an organic farmer, increasing the volume of organic vegetables in the market,” shared an eager Cheo.
“We’re hoping that one day most people can consume more organic vegetables and live healthy, at the same time we can treat our earth nicely.”
You Start With A Seed
Cheo explained that it takes a seed 60 days to mature into a vegetable. Germination in Bug’s Paradise’s nursery takes about 20 days before it’s transplanted to plant beds with healthy soil, enough sunlight, and water. There, the plant will grow and be taken care of by its small team consisting of a full-timer and Zhan Hui, who will harvest the veggie after 40 days.
Some of the veggies grown in Bug’s Paradise include leafy ones like siow pak choi, kangkung, and choi sum, and some fruity ones like long beans, ladies’ fingers (okra), and brinjal. These, Cheo informed, are vegetables that grow well in lowland atmospheres.
“We plant them straight under the hot sun or heavy rain without any greenhouse protection. Vegetables may grow stronger from it, and the flavour is more complex because the vegetables must be able to compete with wheat and still stay strong under the harsh environment,” she explained.
To maintain a healthy and sustainable environment in their farm’s soil, different crops are planted at the same time and they carry out crop rotations.
Unlike A Buffet Line
As customers can freely choose which veggies they want to pick from the farm to subsequently enjoy in the steamboat restaurant, this brings up an issue of inventory management. Bug’s Paradise isn’t like a regular steamboat restaurant where kitchen staff can just refill the buffet line. These veggies need at least 60 days before they’re harvested for consumption.
I asked Cheo, “What if customers picked so much of a certain veggie that there wouldn’t be enough for others? How do you manage the stock?”
“Actually, we can’t really continue this vegetable picking programme. Just like your question, we have had some customers with this kind of behaviour. And our team is really small, we still don’t have enough manpower to do this,” she replied defeatedly. “In the future though, we will continue this programme once we are ready.”
Though this kind of defeats the purpose of having a customer-centric farm-to-table experience, its team could perhaps be stricter about the picking conditions in the future. For example, limiting the volume of each veggie type a customer can pick. This could work as a short-term solution while they figure out a more sustainable arrangement.
Hence, Bug’s Paradise Farm plans to work with more parties to build more organic farms in the next 3 years. In doing so, they also want to encourage more youngsters to join them in the organic farming industry.
“We believe organic farming is the future of farming as lots of climate change issues are going on, and more people care about our living planet,” Cheo concluded, optimistic.
Featured Image Credit: Jia Hui, General Manager at Bug’s Paradise Farm
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