In support of FOLO Farms

My visit to FOLO Farms with a group of organic warriors in late 2016 was so inspiring that I highlighted this farm in a feature titled, Making a difference at FOLO, in My Johor Stories page of the January 2017 issue of The Iskandarian newspapers.

Will Chua [Third from Left] with workers, harvesting
sweet potatoes at FOLO Farms, Ban Foo, Ulu Tiram
I understood the aims and commitment of the FOLO farmers and was glad to see what Dr Lemuel Ng, Will Chua and their team of farmers were doing in their corner of the world (in Johor!) to make a difference, first for their families and loved ones and also to the local community.

So while I was compiling the Contents for my book sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, the FOLO farmers and their inspirational work, were an obvious pick to go into the Portraits section of my book.

In my previous book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, I introduced readers to my parents who were based in Masai for 13 years while they were working with the Government Health Sub-Centre.

Signboard off the main road, pointing to FOLO Farms 
In Going back to Masai-chusetts and My Mum, the Midwife, I shared about how we used to live in the government quarters, a little bungalow that was situated next to the clinic where dad served as the Hospital Assistant and mum was the Midwife.

Also under the Memories section, I shared – Green Fingers – with some photographs of my parents who had a hobby in gardening.

Dad tilled the land and successfully planted vegetables like cabbages, chillies and brinjals (eggplant) in the small plot between our bungalow and the clinic.

Our healthy home garden, carefully tended by my parents – err… I only helped to water the plants – was where I witnessed the planting of seeds, the careful replanting of seedlings and watched them grow, blossom and bear fruit.

Mum holding Ellie, Dr Lemuel Ng's daugther
So when I had fixed an appointment to meet the FOLO Farm guys in their farm in Ban Foo, it was a familiar experience as I drove on bumpy laterite in the final stretch of road, with my mum, who came along for the drive.

A worker pointed me in the direction which I should go and when I stepped out of the car, it was not my imagination because the air did smell much fresher out here.

This was another section of the farm which I did not see during my previous visit to the farm, where the group was particularly keen to study the composting project here.

Since the guys had not arrived yet, mum and I had a few moments to ourselves to explore this shelter which had three sides open for us to enjoy a panoramic view of the farm.

Sparsely furnished, it had a large kitchen and bulky refrigerators that stood against its inner walls.

Stuck on the fridge front were several posters that displayed copies of the awards that FOLO Farms had received.

Interview with Will Chua [Left] and Dr Lemuel Ng [Right]
who's holding baby Ellie, at FOLO Farms, Ban Foo
Then Dr Ng arrived with his daughter, Ellie. In farm-like hospitality, he set the kettle to boil and brewed a pot of Chinese tea for us.

Will joined us shortly and over cups of hot Chinese tea, they guys shared their experiences with me (while mum, seated comfortably nearby, read the newspapers).

Some of the farm team members wandered in and they took care of baby Ellie for a while as I continued collecting all the necessary details from Dr Ng and Will to develop my story on the FOLO Farmers.

They provided me with more exciting details of their journey to becoming Feed Our Loved Ones or FOLO and how their commitment to farming was inspired by Pierre Loisel, the Frenchman who is based in Taiwan.

Food waste. For most of the people, it is only shit to be getting rid of. But for you and me, it is something else, a very precious way to replenish the soil and keep us humans more healthy by growing nutritious vegetables. We spiritualise our shit, and it is not shit anymore. It is worth the object of our love. And what is more spiritual than love?” – A quote by Pierre Loisel.

Will plucking green papayas off this tree!
As Will talked about the team’s visit to Taiwan to meet with Pierre, he also shared his impressions from this profoundly inspiring experience about turning food waste into black gold.

Meanwhile Dr Ng’s phone rang several times and he excused himself to take the calls. Finally, he had no alternative but to leave as patients were waiting for him.

Mum, who had spotted some plants that she wanted, asked Will to give her some cuttings. She also wanted some green papayas to brew papaya tea and Will simply reached out to the nearby tree and plucked the fruits for her!

After wrapping up this interesting interview, Dr Ng and Will shared some photographs with me via email which chartered important milestones in their amazing journey.

There were shots of Pierre Loisel in FOLO Farms with the farmers and sharing his views with visitors during farm tours.

Mum and I with green papayas and plant cuttings
In one photograph where Pierre was speaking to a group, the screen facing the audience displayed a shot of him holding up two cabbages. This struck a familiar chord because these cabbages were similar to those which my dad grew in our home garden!

With the wealth of information passionately shared by Dr Ng and Will, it was easy to write their story.

I pondered about the benefits of black gold and how their composting project started so humbly with them going around Johor Baru, begging for food waste.

Their breakthrough came in December 2015 when they met the owner of a hotel who cared that food waste was not wasted.

A photo of Pierre speaking to visitors to FOLO Farms,
with a screen shot of him holding two cabbages
Will distinctly remembered the date, Dec 18, when the hotel owner brought him into the hotel kitchen and introduced him to the Executive Chef and kitchen team.

He gave his staff strict instructions to cooperate with Will for the systematic way the waste bins would be collected daily.

So Renaissance Hotel Johor Baru has partnered with FOLO Farms in their food waste recycling project since late Dec 2015.

Will and Dr Ng agreed that one of their favourite photos must be the ones captured on the first day when their little truck was loaded with bins full of food waste for collection from Renaissance JB.

Following a tradition set down by Pierre – who dressed smartly to mark the first day of his food waste collection – the FOLO team did likewise and suited up for this special occasion!

Group shot of FOLO farmers captured late Dec 2015 at
Renaissance JB, the first day of their food waste collection
Since partnering with Renaissance JB, I learnt that the farm’s newest partners in the project included Food & Beverage outlets in Sutera Mall, IKEA Tebrau, the Pekin Restaurant group and Batu Batu, an island resort off Mersing, as well as Marlborough College Malaysia.

In addition, a property developer, Tanah Sutera, has partnered with the farm to develop a composting site at Taman Sutera.

Recently, while I was driving through Taman Sutera, I discovered the signboard that pointed to where a former cement plant was redeveloped and turned into a composting site to contribute constructively to the community here.

Weeks and months passed while I worked furiously on my book project and when my manuscript was completed, I had time to give more thought to the book launch event.

I remembered that after his eye-opening visit with Pierre in Taiwan, Dr Ng saw the benefits of using black gold to grow vegetables.

As a medical doctor, he realized that, “Instead of the absence of poison in our food, we can grow food which are packed with nutrients and healing.”

Signboard at Taman Sutera that pointed to the composting
project partnership between FOLO Farms and Taman Sutera
As I thought about what he said and how many more corporations and organizations have committed themselves to participate with FOLO Farms to turn their food waste into black gold, I wanted to highlight how the Renaissance JB believed in their work and was the first to start such a partnership that caused others to follow suit.

I’m familiar with the Renaissance JB as I have worked with them over the years, having done their hotel review and covering countless food reviews of the Food & Beverage outlets in the hotel.

With such a strong link between the hotel and the farm, I thought it would be meaningful to hold my book launch event in the Renaissance JB, the hotel which continues to support the FOLO Farms to this day.

My meeting with Renaissance Johor Baru hotel GM,
Gagan Singh [Right] and Director of Sales & Marketing,
Lanise Loo [Left] at Renaissance JB, recently
By highlighting what the hotel is doing with the farm, I want more corporations and organizations to consider partnering with FOLO Farm in their food waste recycling project and create more black gold to grow more fresh vegetables.

Driven by these thoughts, I did not hesitate to arrange an appointment through the hotel’s Director of Sales & Marketing, Lanise Loo, to meet with hotel General Manager, Gagan Singh.

I was more than pleased that the GM was receptive to my thoughts and ideas to hold a community-centered event in their hotel for my book launch.

And when I shared my ideas about the event, like programme items and refreshments for lunch after the book launch, Dr Ng and Will graciously offered to provide – with their best compliments – fresh vegetables from FOLO Farms, to serve my guests!

A photo of this particular type of lettuce
Wow! Imagine that! Guests will not only hear or read about the FOLO Farms but may also taste and sample a freshly harvested vegetable from their farm!

In a WhatsApp text message, Dr Ng said, “I think lettuce would be most ideal and versatile. Ask the hotel kitchen how much they need for your event?”

To coordinate this between the hotel kitchen and the farm, I asked for a photo of the type of lettuce they wished to contribute and Dr Ng obliged with a shot of their farm’s leafy green lettuce, ready for supply in a box.

Then Will reminded me to get a reply from the hotel quickly.

He said, “We will need to know by mid-October how much lettuce you need as the preparing and planting cycle needs six to eight weeks.”

I conveyed the hotel chef’s reply to Will promptly so this lot of vegetables planted now for serving at my event lunch, would be so incredibly farm-fresh!

Packing fresh vegetables at FOLO Farms
for weekly supply to farm members
It was also agreed that this freshly harvested lettuce would be delivered from the farm to the hotel kitchen on time to be prepared and served at my event the next day.

With kind approval from the hotel, I’ve even arranged for some heritage traders featured in my book, to serve their halal food so that guests can appreciate why these businesses are still being operated by their third or fourth generation family members!

While we were discussing menu items to match the food being catered by the traders, Lanise, on behalf of the hotel, kindly offered to provide a menu of snacks and beverages, with the hotel's best compliments.

Thanks, FOLO Farms and Renaissance JB, for your partnership and in supporting my book launch event, a small celebration where the inspiring subjects featured in my book are the real VIPs.

For more info about FOLO Farms, visit website:

No comments:

Post a Comment