The Kitchen at Bacchanalia

Contemporary French Cuisine

The Kitchen at Bacchanalia

Our farm in the Cameron Highlands

The relationship between humans and nature has been part of human life forever. It is only in modern times that we have become increasingly isolated from the natural world and more detached from the plants, animals, fungi and bacteria that make us who we are.

Visiting our farm in the Cameron Highlands and seeing how it operates helps us to understand what it means to live with nature, and why.

On our first visit to the farm it seemed incredibly inefficient. Having grown up on a relatively modern farm in Australia, growing only a couple of varieties of produce, I looked around and thought, it must take ages to get anything done here!

The farm sits on the slope of a hill and everything is done by hand, except watering, with some garden beds in very obscure locations- up hills and carved into steep banks. There are only a few varieties of vegetables in each bed, and these beds are interwoven between the natural vegetation - what most farmers would consider weeds. Standing at a higher point, looking over the farm, it looks just like part of the forest.

 

Our farm in Cameron Highlands.

We discussed this with Fung, our farmer, and he explained the reasons why the farm looks this way. "Because I am lazy," he said with a laugh before proceeding to explain that most modern farmers grow one crop, whereas he grows countless (around 70; 34 varieties just for Bacchanalia). He does this because it is more in line with nature. Put simply, more crops means a more diverse ecosystem and the more diverse the ecosystem the more predators to eat the pests. This natural ecosystem means he has no need to apply any pesticides or chemicals (not even certified organic ones). This cuts out a large amount of time and money, which I believe is what he was referring to when he called himself lazy. This ecosystem combined with compost and nutrient rich water from what is essentially a large fish pond inhabited by vegetarian carp, creates a lush environment to grow vegetables.

Mark and Ivan at our Cameron Highlands farm

The farm appears random because Fung has ignored the human urge to control nature; instead he is trying to mimic it. This method seems to be different from organic farming. It is not simply avoiding the use of synthetic chemicals; it is instead trying to avoid disturbing nature completely. In some cases even improving certain aspects of the land it has been established on, such as soil quality and biodiversity. 

After his explanation, the natural state of the farm seems much more sensible and less inefficient. The comparison of modern agriculture and natural farming brings to light the separation between the values of modern society and nature. Modern society wants everything available all the time, cost effective and symmetrical, compared to the way nature is, when vegetables often grow at different speeds and shapes.

Back at the restaurant, serving the produce from the farm has become even more exciting and rewarding. It is very special to be able to share this natural food with the community and to be able to support positive change in the production of food.

 

Mark Ebbels

 

 

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