We were in Bintan for a 1 night getaway from Singapore with our two young children aged 9mths and 3yrs. I am so happy we made this lovely discovery of Sawah Ladang, a humble, community owned, organic farm in Bintan, that recently opened to visitors for educational tours in March 2011. I personally love love love community owned, sustainable ecotourism so I was excited when I found their website and read their reviews. So I dropped them an email, got a short reply from Luckfi and we are all set for the 3hr tour, which was a simple farm visit, organic planting session, and lunch at $35 per adult. It turned out to be a the perfect half day activity for my 3 year old boy, who is very curious about nature, and have been learning about how plants grow. Luckfi is great with children (having young boys of his own) and he totally engaged my boy with lots of hands-on and sensory experiences during the visit.
Arrival: We were picked up the ferry terminal by Luckfi, who runs the organic farm with the help of 3 workers. He is a friendly and articulate Indonesian who is passionate about organic farming. My son quickly warmed up to him as he told us about the things we were going to do at his humble farm... It was a 20mins drive out of the Bintan Resorts strip and into what Luckfi calls the "real Indonesia". When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by how simple and serene the place was. Its not fancy, and the only hint that this is open to tourism is the pretty flower lined path leading to a humble hut with handmade tables and chairs. We sat down and were served a warm lemongrass & ginger drink, which Luckfi tells us are produce from the farm. The first thing we noticed were the butterflies!!! There were many fluttering around the hut, yellow, brown, black.... like they were welcoming us. I immediately loved the place.
The tour: Luckfi took us around the small farm, where everything was being grown organically, showing us various plants, trees, vegetables, fruits, root vegetables. He is very observant and pointed out a caterpillar and its cocoon for us.. which really captured my son's curiosity, reminding him of his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It was a sensory experience for him, touching the various types of leaves and fruits, smelling fragrant roots used for aromatherapy and listening to the sounds of the birds chirping. We spotted some farm animals which roam freely (so you only see them if you are lucky!); the noisy goose, the pretty ducks, roosters, and my son's favourite, the fierce-looking solitary cow (Luckfi tells us his friends were slaughtered over Eid Adha festivities). Luckfi proudly showed us the farm, where they were growing long beans, spinach, kangkong etc. He talked to us about how organic farming is done vs conventional farming, and why it is better for the earth, and for us. He also showed us the paddy that they sowed last year but sadly got washed out over the very wet Christmas weekend. For us it was a reminder of how working with the earth requires patience. Very humbling for as city folks, where we want everything to be fast and demand immediate results for everything.
Planting activity: After a walk around the vegetable farm and paddy fields, we returned back to the hut where we were served cold drinks. Then its time for hard work! Luckfi taught us how to plant tomato and melon seeds using banana leaves (instead of plastic).. I was grinning from ear to ear cos this was a practical lesson for Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed for my son. My son helped fill the little "pots" made of banana leaf with soil, planted the seed, poured water on it. He then carried one of the little seedlings (planted by previous guests) over to a little plot of land which was designated for our little family. Luckfi showed him how to loosen the soil, and plant the tomato seedlings and tapioca stems in the soil. It was such a fun hands on experience for my little one! Luckfi says he will keep us updated as our plants grow :)
Lunch: While waiting for our lunch, Luckfi disappeared for a while and came back with a bunny rabbit! He told us there was a rabbit farm nearby but its hard to walk into so he got permission from the owner to bring one to us, for my boy! So sweet of him! Lunch was served and it was a simple spread but so very very yummy! Organic rice wrapped in banana leaf, soup cooked with vegetables from their farm, served with ayam bakar, tahu and tempeh. What could be better? Seriously, some of the best meals we have had on our family trips are these simple kampung meals. It was also nice to be able to remind my little one, after the planting activity, that everything on the table doesn't just arrive on the table without the effort and hard work of the humble farmer.
Conclusion: We loved the experience, and would love to go back for their full day farming tour (with more "hard work" like rice planting demo). Highly recommended to other parents or eco-loving individuals, who enjoy serenity, and love giving tourist dollars to community efforts like these. Luckfi if you are reading this thank you once again for such a lovely day... we are not kidding about sending our to you for a farmstay and free labour in 7 years time!
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