Much of the local produce found in supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur hales from farms in the Cameron Highlands. Not all farms are created equal however, and this small hilltop station houses both nature defying industrial monsters and small organic, much more humble plots.
For many consumers mystery surrounds the label ‘organic’ and I bet some question why the produce within that category is often more expensive than intensively farmed goods. An Organic Culinary Journey with Farmer Fung and Cameron Highlands Resort recently uncovered some of the realities behind the term.
Picked up mid morning from the resort, a short drive has us on the grounds of Farmer Fung’s farm. It’s not like plots you may have seen in movies, nor does it resemble the giant holdings of my childhood in country NSW. This growth morphs into the surrounding jungle and tumbles down terraced hills. It’s small and meandering, and it’s not immediately clear what is in each plot. The lot has been designed to have minimal impact on the preexisting environs, and all that is known about natural cycles is used in the growth of edible plants.
Unlike monoculture farming, which relies on heavy chemical fertilizers and pesticides to sustain production, this organic farm uses diversity in planting and rotation of crops to ensure that what is taken out of the soil from one species is given back to the soil by another. It makes harvesting and planting more labour intensive, but the benefit of having chemical-free food, less environmental hazards for workers, and a naturally sustaining eco-system is at the core of organic practice.
As Farmer Fung guides us around the farm, we feel a sense of tranquility and wellbeing. This man clearly believes in what he does, and as such I can’t help but note a state of inner peace. His actions are in line with his values: what I believe to be the secret to happiness. We embark on a cheerful exchange of questions and thoughts, before being led back down to the lunch area where Chef Soon has been preparing his morning’s harvest.
A rustic deck is shaded by passionfruit vines, and although we couldn’t be further removed from the formalities of city life, Cameron Highlands Resort provides full butler service. The team seems to be just as delighted to be here as we are and willingly partake in our upbeat banter.
A starter of paper-thin vegetable shavings with a delicious sesame dressing kicks off the lunch. It’s followed by a mouth-watering confit of a medley of tomatoes. The process has intensified the flavours and I have to ask chef if he has added sugar, as they are so rich and sweet. “No! Pure natural farm-fresh goodness,” is the answer. The main is a pretty plate of braised root vegetables. You know I love my veggies, but there are a couple of varieties here that even I’m unfamiliar with. Each has its own taste and I’m convinced that my body is absorbing all of their goodness. Organic bananas and plump juicy strawberries are the grand finale.
We not only leave the experience feeling nourished and energized, but with a greater appreciation of where our food comes from and a better understanding of what ‘organic’ truly means.
Reasons to visit: an insight into the system and philosophies behind organic farming; a delicious and healthy lunch prepared from produce picked mere metres away – a true farm to table experience.