Oct 31, 2009
There are warriors in my midst; fighting thankless battles on our behalf.
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Oct 28, 2009
The Bayam Pasir (wild amaranth), a personal favourite is ready for harvest. And to be frank, I did not even visit the bed once since we sowed the seeds three weeks ago. Nobody did any weeding, the farm hand just turn on the sprinkler occasionally when the compost was dry to the 'poked-finger' and once a week sprayed some compost tea.
Note: Bayam Pasir draws unhealthy levels of nitrates from chemical NPK fertilisers. Always use low N compost. Avoid eating too much 'modern' hybrid vegetables grown conventionally. Always chose vegetables grown on compost such as Grace Cup, even though they may not be certified. Choose organic vegetables that are non-'modern' hybrid (heritage or heirloom) and slow growing, and grown on compost too. Talk to your farmer.
Avoid buying from 'organic' corporate farmers. They will use high NPK 'organic' fertilisers, high N demanding vegetable varieties (faster growing and larger), etc. Too much of these vegetables may cause imbalances in our bodies.
Today we had our first trial run calling the walit.
Completed walit house.
We switched on the 'bazooka' tweeter for the first time. It's that dark outline jutting up on the roof, in the picture. It has a range of 1 km.
And the walit came after just 5 minutes ! We counted easily a hundred! They dove down and around the house and some went in on investigatory flights.
Now we wait for some newly wed couples to make our house their home.
Officers from the Ministry of Agriculture came today to audit the farm on its organic compliance. Water and plant samples were taken and records were carefully checked. The auditors even asked after the welfare of the workers.
Puan Nurul Al Hana and Tengku Azman, auditors from the Ministry having a cup of mulberry leaf tea after the audit.
Oct 27, 2009
I am worried about this emphasis on bio-technology in recent years in our country.
It is as if the centuries of farming experience by our fore-fathers should all be discarded. Our fore-fathers look at farming as producing nutrition for human consumption. Not maximising production.
I am sure, it is the fresh-faced, soft-spoken 'food' scientists who came up with 'smart' solutions like feeding cows and sheep with cow organs and discards and ended with mad-cow disease. Would our fore-fathers ever dream of doing such a thing?
And also it must be 'food' scientists who came up with hydrogenated vegetable oils to replace animal fats and ended up giving a few generations here spoonfuls of trans-fats every day (we use margarine for bread, for chicken rice, for cookies, cakes, etc.).
It may come as a surprise but many of these food scientists are not trained in human nutrition.
The first person who told me about omega 6 and its inflammatory effect at the cellular level was a veterinary science graduate. He spoke about it from the perspective of poultry health and that since broilers have such short lives, cancers etc will not show up.
But surprisingly, he did not make the connection between poultry health and humans who eat the chicken! He did not see the link between chickens with high levels of omega 6 and humans who eat those chickens year after year.
Scientists are like corporate guys – they have very narrow objectives. They must show results. The 'smart' ones coming out with 'smart' solutions will see career advancements and bonuses.
So, they sit and think and think and come up with feeding chicken litter to cows, and with 'scientific' results to prove it is 'scientifically proven'. The corporate types will most probably use the study to justify implementing such a scheme.
Or to push down plastic brushes into the throats of cow to improve digestion (the cows with plastic scrubbers gain 16% more. The corporate farmers will be jumping for joy here!)
Or to feed the cows stale chewing gum in their plastic wrappers (can reduce corn-alfafa meal by 30%) .
Bio-technology is fine. Science is fine. But you must have a guy with loads of common-sense who is keenly aware of possible long-term side effects to make the final decisions. Not the scientists.
For example, will the use of plastic scrubbers cause the cow to produce certain hormones or enzymes which may affect human health if consumed over extended periods of time? All angles from the human long term perspective should be addressed before allowing these 'smart' solutions to be implemented.
Better yet, spend that money on R&D to improve pasture management. For example at our farm, we can produce enough grass for 200 goats from one acre of land. The current standard is 15 goats per acre here. Just not enough money is going into improving basic traditional farming. It is just not glamorous and unfortunately does not have the immediate impact on GDP like a few hundred million poured into some 'modern' farming centre.
What Can You Do?
1. Buy from small farmers. Buy local.
2. Reduce or avoid processed foods.
3. Know your farmer (especially corporate farmers). He cannot farm in secret. He must allow visitors, if not yourself then other consumers like you.
4. Know the farming methods used by your farmer.
Oct 26, 2009
I worked in a multinational before. I know the pressures. I know the incessant need to look for 'growth' and profits. Which is why I think corporations should not be allowed to do farming. The culture and the ethics are worlds apart!
The temptation to listen to 'smart' guys in the board room when you are under pressure is tremendous. I think that brought down Wall Street last year.
If you are a corporation and under pressure to reduce feed costs, and if a 'smart' guy suggests 'recycled' cooking oil from either a supplier or better yet, from your own chain of restaurants, would you even lose a night's sleep before giving the go-ahead? If it means 30%, 50% savings?
Don't believe me? Don't believe that they feed chickens with recycled cooking oil? Then read this:
The use of recycled cooking oil for animal feed is a 'smart' idea. It saves disposal costs, reduces pollution and the animals don't know better. It is an idea that is surely born out of a corporate board room. And the guy who came up with the idea most probably received a medal.
The BBC called me a few months back asking about animal husbandry practices in Malaysia. I mentioned about the use of vegetable oils to fatten animals. I am sure the interviewer yawned. And he replied that they do the same in the U.K. With the addition of fats, the chicken will reach the desired weight maybe two weeks earlier (you don't need hormones, enzymes, etc. as fats work better). The Authorities are happy that food production is going up. The food scientists have done their job. The corporate farmers are happy as cash-flow have improved.
But nobody from the industry looked at the effects from eating meat produced in such a manner. Who's responsibility is that? There's only so much education one man can do (I raised the issues in my talks since 2001).
The high fat intake will cause the body of the animal to manufacture more of its own saturated fats thereby increasing its ratio in the meat. Chickens fed fats can have a saturated fat content that's as high as red meats - 8 to 10%. The higher the saturated fats, the higher the cholesterol content. Chickens fed fats can have cholesterol content that's as high as, or even higher than beef. One chicken I tested had 72mg/100grams. That's the level of beef and lamb!
And since we eat more chicken meat more often than red meat, without realising it we have piled on the saturated fats into our diet. Especially we Asians who love the 'drum stick'. The total lipids of the darker meats can be as high as 30%, excluding bones. And don't forget the omega 6: omega 3 ratio. With the fats and the grains, that's screwed up too. One factory chicken I had tested recorded a ratio of 59:1. That is a nutritional disaster! The recommended ratio is 4:1 or less.
What can you do?
1. Support small farmers, in particular local farmers.
2. Reduce purchase of food produced by faceless corporations, in particular meat products.
3. Ask yourself this question: why am I trusting the production of food for my family to a faceless corporation? Don't just trust a brand-name. Take back some of the responsibility of providing food for your family by finding out more about the food producer, check out the labelling, read, check the internet, ask people. Plant your own, grow your own; even if it is to meet just a small part of your requirements.