Do you ever wonder why organic lifestyle is on a roll of trending recently? Why people are seeking ways of cultivating that are similar to those of our ancestors? Well, the answer is simple; people were healthier before the chemical revolution, pumping their bodies with nutritions in their rawest form. As naive (and a bit ignorant) as it may sound, going organic was some kind of a lifestyle trend to me. As I grew up, I began to understand how crucial it is to adopt an organic way of eating, and how delicious they taste, too.
In Oman, we didn’t have a place that offers farm-to-table organic produce until four years back, where Narjes Mohamed Mirza embarked on an agricultural journey full of challenges, determination, and lots of fresh, pesticide-free vegetables. This weekend let us go on a trip to an organic wonderland tucked amid farmlands of Barka: Pairidaeza Farm, Oman’s first certified organic farming land.
Before we take a walk inside the farm, let’s explore the meaning of organic agriculture. It refers to the products grown and processed in a well-balanced soil that’s free of synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilisers, or bioengineered genes. It also refers to animals that are raised in open spaces and, most importantly, fed with grain and grass from mother nature without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones, offering us healthy, chemical-free meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Regardless of diet, going raw is always a positive move towards a healthier lifestyle, and there are tonnes of reasons that contribute to making this the best choice over antibiotic-loaded, hormone-injected, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) products. First, organic produce contain way less pesticides in comparison to those in conventional agriculture. Second, the practice itself reduces pollution as it boosts soil’s fertility. Third, it has zero preservatives, which add a garden-fresh taste on your plate. And, for livestock animals, the products are richer in nutrients.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into Pairidaeza farm (which holds an American and European certification). As I entered the place, Narjes and her agriculture engineer Ehab Hussain offered a warm welcome and showed me around their farm. I was left in awe as it was a beautiful environment full of earthy aromas. As we walked around the place, Narjes handed me a couple of organic cucumbers to savour. The fresh smell filled my nostril as I took one bite after another. It tasted amazing.
While strolling inside the farm I asked Narjes on where did her love for organic food came from? Ever since she was young, gardening was her favourite thing to do. She would spend hours planting seeds in hopes for them to grow. As time went by, she began to dive into organic food as she realised how toxic the food we currently consume is. At first, her family was a bit reluctant to change their eating habits until Narjes proved to them that organic food can be a contributing factor in curing some diseases, and avoiding many others. After the family witnessed their diabetic father got healthier after eating organic food, they understood its value. “The whole concept is to go back to olden times where they used to be healthy and consume chemical-free vegetables and livestock,” she said, adding that “we are going back to nature”.
As an advocate of everything-organic, Narjes was faced with a challenge of finding organic products. She then decided to take it upon herself and make her gardening dream a reality. Narjes invested in a land in Barka and began cultivating vegetables. Today, she is the first and only female who owns an organic farm that produces almost all vegetables and herbs one could ever need including cherry tomatoes, asparagus, peas, bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, lemon, a massive corn field, and countless herbs, to name a few.
During my visit to this lovely place, I got to peek inside temperature-controlled green houses, massive lands cultivated and bedded with all kinds of greens, as well as a stretched-barn that has a number of organic, free-range livestock animals.
To get these products growing, Narjes and her engineer Ehab prepared the soil by making it farming-friendly by treating it with organic compost with bio-mixes. They utilise natural rocks such as potassium and magnesium to feed the land, which is tested by certified professionals from international organisations for authenticity. When the soil is all set, they use organic, non-GMO seeds and plant their desired vegetables. It fascinated me how every little item in this farm is done by hand, and handled with extra care. Even the weeds are taken care of using natural methods such as hand weeding, tilling, mulching, and of course crop rotation. I stood in the middle of the field, photographing men as they plant lettuce by hand. Their dedication was quite inspiring. I then asked, “what if the plants died?” Well, since they cannot use chemicals and pesticides to treat the plants, they try to save it using natural techniques to treat it. If all failed, the plant is then removed.
When it comes to livestock, they cannot treat animals with chemicals as well, so they ensure that the barn is cleaned on regular basis, and they use methods such as rotational grazing and healthy diet. No antibiotics or medications allowed.
All the products that Narjes and her team use are all organic and environment friendly. She has naturally made soaps to wash plants, organic black honey that’s used to feed the plants as its rich in iron, and most importantly, natural pesticides and products from internationally certified brands and pioneers in organic agriculture industry. And, they also use organic mustard oil to treat plants and basil trees and naturally-made pesticides to keep pests away - how interesting.
As any new adventure, building an organic business from scratch comes with its challenges, and to Narjes these were also valuable lessons. When she first began her journey, it was a trial-and-error kind of a situation before she learned all the necessary requirements of successfully planting vegetables. It was, to a certain extent, an educational challenge. Given that Narjes is a self-taught organic guru in Oman, her determination and willingness to make this business work is nothing short of an inspiring story. Another dilemma was the sand; the soil is extremely smooth, making it a nightmare to farm, but with the right team it is absolutely manageable.
Owning an organic farm isn’t the only thing that matters to the owner, she treats her plants like humans, feeding them on time and ensuring that every plant in a green house or outside is having the best of care. “If we all become friendly to our environment, we can succeed” she expressed. I was truly inspired as I walked into every corner of Pairidaeza Farm. I am yet to get into the organic lifestyle, but this trip has pumped me up to begin at least with a bunch of organic greens on my plate. “If you can start with a salad side dish daily, your health will be much better,” said Narjes.
If you want to get into a healthier lifestyle full of chemical-free vegetables and hormone-free meats, then this is definitely a place to visit. If Barka is miles away from your place, no problem; luckily the products are distributed at Lulu Hypermarkets in a dedicated section for organic followers. Let’s help raise awareness in this part of town on organic food, upcoming generations will thank us for it. And I sure thank Narjes for inspiring it towards a better, fresher, and cleaner lifestyle. — [email protected]
Contact Pairidaeza Farm
+968 9900 0059