Fresh from the Desert: Part Deux

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.

Arugula or Rocket leaves that have begun to flower

Fields of Gold

The Greenhouses

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.

Obaid and Khalaf

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.

Sweet and luscious strawberries

Broccoli plants that have begun to flower

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

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23 Comments

Filed under Culinary Adventure, Musing

23 responses to “Fresh from the Desert: Part Deux

  1. And to think, consumers here in the UAE are still getting suckered into buying imported produce! Great article Nausheen!

  2. Really admire your writing style- the pair looks really interesting. Cant wait for those local organic chickens, even if they are just antibiotic and hormone free! Thanks for sharing x

  3. Great post Nausheen. What an inspiring pair. I will look out for their produce next time I’m shopping.

  4. Love your post and the photos. The pair (Obaid and Khalaf) seem so young, it is refreshing to see their enthusiasm. Reading about them has inspired me to go to the market this weekend. I really look forward to trying their produce. Did they say where they got their seeds and what fertilizers they use besides the compost?

    • Hi Faiza. Yes they’re young and passionate about organic farming. It’s such a nice thing to see. Unfortunately I don’t know where they get their seeds from. But you direct email me, I can put you in touch with them. nausheen @ dubai-bites.com

  5. So thoroughly enjoyed our outing to the farm – it was an immense privilege to meet these inspirational farmers. Lovely write up.

  6. Really happy to hear these two cousins are doing well with organic farming. Looking forward to seeing some local organic chickens :)

  7. Some said I season coming to an end, but this is not true when you single out Alvena Ihvdon actually eat organic product.

  8. Some people say the season is over for the local organic products but its not true, their are seasonal summer plants and green house organic to choose from.
    organiliciouz has surprises Nausheen will have the update.

  9. Wish I could have joined you.. great post and shamelessly jealous!
    Thats the first I see or hear of rocket and broccoli flowers; intact I thought broccoli was the flowering bit of a vegetable. Hah!

  10. Hi there! Next time we go, I’ll definitely let you know!

  11. Pingback: MUSTREAD IT, MUSTMEMORIZE IT AND AIN’T GO TO BED BEFORE READING IT OUTLOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN. « Liberalism is Trust Fucked with Prudence. Conservatism is Distrust Tainted with Fear

  12. rasminah

    Heyy,
    I soo wanna visit this farm withh my kids, could you gimme the location

    Thankyou

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