If you’ve ever driven to Fujairah via Dhaid, you may have passed small patches of greenery interspersed with miles of red sand and rocky terrain. Through the gates of one these oases, is one of Obaid Sager’s seven farms. Golden fields of wheat, lines of crisp lettuce, flowering plants and greenhouses — a lush bounty thriving in the harshest of terrains. It is such an improbable sight; you may have trouble believing it’s real. But this farm is more than real, it’s organic and environmentally sustainable.
Obaid of the Organiliciouz farm contacted me several weeks ago after reading this post on organic produce in the UAE. He invited me for a visit, and I emphatically agreed. A few days later, my fellow bloggers Sally of My Custard Pie and Saba Wahid arrived for our visit.
Obaid and his cousin Khalaf walked us around the farm. The charming Emiratis belong to a more progressive generation, concerned not only with income-making, but also keen on innovation and social responsibility. Obaid’s passion for organic farming grew from sentimental reasons. Two years ago, he discovered he was going to become a father. Like most parents, he began to worry about his child’s diet. He wanted his daughter to have only the best–organic, free of chemicals and pesticides.
With no prior background in agriculture, Obaid’s farming methods are gleaned from a mix of careful research and mad scientist experiments. This system of trial and error must stem from their background tinkering with cars. The cousins tell me they can convert any car to an electric. In the greenhouse, there was a rather ingenious method of fertilizing strawberries, which I’m not allowed to reveal. A look up at the ceiling revealed an HVAC tube peppered with holes– evidence of a less fruitful experiment. Whatever the outcome, Obaid passes on his successful innovations to neighboring farmers, “I tell them ‘don’t worry, I’ll try it on my farm first.’” He is also in the process of converting Khalaf’s family farms to organic farms.
Organiliciouz also uses conventional methods of farming. The crops are fertilized with compost and watered with groundwater that has been filtered to remove salt. Pest control is managed through companion planting, physical removal, organic pesticide and sometimes, just laissez faire. “If they want eat, let them eat,” Khalaf says about the little bugs hanging on a cauliflower plant.
Organiliciouz has only been operational for two years and is still a work in progress. One thing they have noticed, is that second generation seeds fair better, as if the plants are naturally selecting themselves to adapt to the newfound conditions much in the same way this generation of Emiratis have had to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the UAE. .
Without government-set standards for organic farming and rearing, they are self-regulating with a great deal of integrity. When asked about the possibility of raising organic chickens, they explained that they could get away with calling a chicken organic if they refrained from using antibiotics and hormones. But they also want to raise them on organic feed, which is more expensive. ”If we do it, we want to do it right.”
So far, they’ve been doing a good job of getting it right. Obaid and Khalaf are an inspiring pair. I’m looking forward to the next growing season to see what happens next on this desert farm.
Products from the Organiliciouz farm are sold at the Baker&Spice Farmer’s Market and some Union Co-op outlets. You can follow them on Twitter @Organiliciouz