Balik Pulau, literally “the other side of the island” is Penang’s agricultural district, particularly famous for its production of the odiferous durian fruit. There are also a number of small-holder famers, passionate about the missions of their farms, and open to tourists to explore. Here are two that are located close together, and can be visited in one morning.
Comfort Organic Farm
Mr Lui Teik Hock founded Comfort Organic Farm in 2005 after becoming disillusioned with his corporate career. With no previous agricultural experience, he set himself to learning about organic farming methods and implementing them on his five-acre site in Balik Pulau.
Mr Lui is passionate about the value of organic food to health, and also that people should have the opportunity to see how food is grown, understand the organic farming ecosystem, and enjoy nature, so he regularly gives tours of his farm. Reservations are essential so that he can plan – he works the land largely on his own, so if he is giving a tour he can’t be harvesting his okra for example!
In the tour, you will learn about the methods the farm uses to maximize yield while avoiding the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. For example, the winged residents of his swiftlet house feed on insects while giving him a profitable sideline in birds nests; a pond encourages frogs and dragonflies to live on site, and they also eat insects, while the five varieties of fish that live in the pond can also be harvested. Crop rotation and the avoidance of mono-culture keeps the soil fertile and prevents disease setting in. Less comfortable to know perhaps is that the only way to keep rats and mice from snacking on the crops is to have a resident snake or two!
This balanced ecosystem approach has resulted in the farm producing a large variety of fruit and vegetables including dragon fruit, mulberries, watermelon, pumpkin, sweetcorn, French beans, okra, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and cabbage. In addition, some processed products are manufactured on site, without the use of synthetic chemicals, such as mulberry jam and roselle juice.
The tour lasts around one and a half hours, so it is recommended to begin early (before 10am) as there is no shade. The price is RM 60 per visit, for up to 6 people, and the price includes a home-made beverage after the tour. A deposit is required to secure the reservation (by bank transfer to COMFORT ORGANIC FARM, CIMB account 8003885959). Reservations should be made directly with Mr Lui 019-4714168. For larger groups of 20 people or more, special packages and lunches are available. Please check www.facebook.com/comfortorganicfarm for more details.
Comfort Organic Farm is on Jalan Pantai Acheh, Sungai Pinang, Balik Pulau.
From the main road that runs round the island from Balik Pulau to Teluk Bahang, turn onto Jalan Pantai Aceh, which runs all the way to the coast to the village of the same name. After 800 metres turn left, and this winding road brings you first to Comfort Organic Farm, and then on to the Saanen Goat Farm.
Saanen Dairy Goat Farm
The Saanen Goat Farm was founded by the Ho family in 2005, and is run very much as a family affair by Ho Juan Aun and his wife, helped out by their daughter. The farm owns around 125 goats, which it raises for their milk and dairy products. At this working farm, you will also see plenty of hens and ducks, and also an ostrich!
Individuals and families are welcome to visit the farm at any time between 10am and 5pm, completely free of charge, and without booking in advance. Each visitor is offered a bundle of long grass to feed the goats with. The goats are not vicious and can be petted, especially the young goat kids which easily and often jump out of their pens and roam freely around the farm. It is recommended to visit between 12pm and 1pm, at which time you will see the goats being milked. There is a sales kiosk sales kiosk where you can buy a bottle of tasty goats milk, yoghurt or a tub of delicious goat milk ice cream. Goat cheese is being planned for some time in the future but is not available yet.
For groups of 20 or more, bookings must be made and payment is required. The basic package, at RM 7 per head, includes a brief overview of the farm, feeding the goats, and then Mr Ho milks a couple of goats to show how it is done, and explains the pasteurization process. The price also includes a bottle of goat milk per person. Mr Ho can be contacted for bookings at 019-5163017.
A variety of special packages involving creative activities using goat milk are also available by prior arrangement for groups, with prices between RM 8 and RM 40 per person depending on the activity. These include Mantou (steam bun) making, doughnut making, soap making and pizza making. Activity sessions last between 40 minutes an hour and a half. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and check www.facebook.com/pg/SaanenDairyGoatFarm. The address of Saanen Dairy Goat Farm is 298 Mukim 1 Sungai Pinang, on the winding road past Comfort Organic Farm.