By PREMA JAYABALAN
Think farmers and we all imagine strong, tough men who are used to working hard in the farms for hours under the scorching sun or pouring rain.
However, in my case, I was quite surprised when I was assigned to interview an organic farmer.
Expecting to write about a man, it came as a nice surprise when the farmer was a friendly-looking lady.
Norizan Othman is an organic farmer who owns land in Lanchang, Pahang. She started in 1990 and has been going steadily ever since.
“It has been more than 20 years now since I started this organic farm. I grow vegetables here,” she shares.
“Well, I did not pursue a higher education during my younger days. After I completed Form 5, I joined a small company as a clerk.
“Life went on and I started my own family. After that, upon considering the notion of providing a much better life for my family, I ventured into farming with the help of my husband,” reminisces the mother-of-three.
Lessons through experiences
“I did not get any formal education in agriculture but I attended many short courses to increase my knowledge.
“At these courses, I was taught how to grow vegetables, control insects and to market products.
“Besides that, I always get advice from other seasoned farmers if I have any doubt. The rest is through experiences of course. I have learnt many things through the experiences I gained as a farmer,” explains Norizan.
Norizan and her husband grow vegetables such as cucumbers and egg-plants on their farm.
As their method is all natural, Norizan uses garlic and white onions to control insects and other pests that try to ruin their crop.
“I make my own fertiliser as it is much better this way. I buy the ingredients needed from the local market and produce my own fertiliser. It is safe, healthy and chemical free.”
Norizan markets her products at the local markets in Lanchang as well as at the pasar borong in Selayang, Kuala Lumpur.
Sowing and reaping
This hard-working farmer’s job requires her to firstly prepare nurseries that house her crop.
Then seedlings are prepared along with fertiliser and planted in the nurseries. They are given proper care and attention to ensure healthy growth.
One week after that, the crop is transferred to the ground. Fertilising is done once a week and this goes on until it is time for harvesting.
The time to harvest takes place between day 45 and 60. Once harvesting is done, the plants are graded accordingly and sold.
“My day starts at about 7:30am. After a quick breakfast I go around my farm to check on my plants. I have to make sure that they are not damaged by insects,” explains Norizan.
“I then spray organic fertiliser on the plants and prune them until 11am. After that, it is time to water the plants and this takes about two hours.
“I take a break for lunch and some rest. Work continues again at 3pm and I repeat the routine until about 6pm. Then, my day at the farm ends. During the time I am at the farm, people come and buy my products.”
A passion for the green
Norizan doesn’t see farming as a job because she loves what she is doing.
Being able to produce organic plants which are healthy and being surrounded by the greenery motivates her to get through each day at the farm.
“Sure there are many obstacles along the way. For instance, the weather. This is a main factor that can spell trouble as sometimes it may be too hot and the plants will dry up.
“Other times, there might be too much rain and this might cause damage to the plants as well. These scenarios may result in plants not growing well and this can hit us bad, financially,” she replies when asked about her main concerns.
However, the benefits organic farming brings to Norizan is much greater. Through her vocation, she has learnt a lot about plants and the growth process, which for her, is by far the most precious.
“I am most happy during the harvesting season when I see how well my plants have grown. I am delighted when it comes to marketing the products to buyers as I see the wonderful outcome from all the hard work my husband and I have invested.”
Besides farming, this enterprising woman has also associated herself with government agencies to produce fertilisers for other farmers.
She feels that this is very useful to farmers as it helps them cut cost. Norizan was also a recipient of the Hari Peladang Kebangsaan award from year 2004 to 2009.
“I have also received an award at the national level for organic farming by the Agriculture Ministry, which is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my organic farming career.”
Playing your part
Organic farming requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Moreover, a lot of patience is needed as issues can crop up from day one of planting right through to harvesting and marketing.
Norizam feels that the best way to handle problems is by following procedures and gaining as much knowledge as possible to know how best to respond.
However, she says it is a career worth pursuing. “I would encourage people to take up organic farming as it is a beneficial career. Sure, it can be tough, but with hard work and knowledge, you will reap profits and become successful.
“Using organic products can save the environment and it is imperative for us to play our part to save the world. It is so much cheaper and safer if we can produce it ourselves.
“All you need is diligence, dedication, hard work and the attitude of not giving up easily,” she concludes with a smile.
Watch the video here: