Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Self-Contained Farming in Bali

ALL photos courtesy: Sara Novak

The need for the self-contained family farming community is all the more evident after seeing places where it still persists. Besides, the obvious food and financial benefits of growing your own food, I believe it helps to build a camaraderie between villagers that just doesn't exist in our urban lifestyle.

Farming villages and small towns used to be the norm in the USA, Canada and many other countries until the populations started moving away from the farm and toward the city. Those farms that do remain are often enormous and blanketed with genetically-modified corn and soy.

But such a self-contained farming community does still exist in the tiny community of Tetebatu on the Indonesian island of Lombok, just an hour away from Bali. Bali is a "must" on my list of places to visit before I die.

The village has several varieties of rice that each serve a different purpose. The harder varieties were grown for everyday use and the more expensive black rice variety was used on special occasions to make rice wine and rice pudding.

The village makes its own coffee directly from the trees on the farm and then roasts it with coconut to make some of the most delicious coffee ever. Meals also include coconut, mango, avocado, papaya, and durian from trees that dot the land. While I have never tried durian, I understand that if you can get the past the smell - it smells like rotting meat - the flesh is absolutely delicious with a pudding-like texture. They also cultivate peppers, long beans, tobacco, and various other crops to support the community.

Only a few varieties of rice as well as the tobacco ever leave the farm. Cows were eaten on very special occasions and chickens cluck around the farm freely until their unlucky day finally came.

While undoubtedly the village is poor, the people aren't unhappy bearing out one of my theories. I have always felt that in many ways third-world countries are far ahead of our so-called "developed" society. While their material possessions may be few, they seem to possess an inner serenity that few of us in the developed countries ever obtain.

This simple existence revolves around a strong sense of community and a dependence on their neighbor for survival. There’s little need to buy anything and little access even if you wanted to. No one is overweight as their food is naturally additive-free and no day will ever be spent behind a desk. Their natural, additive-free diet is what allows for even senior members of the community to still work and enjoy the camaraderie of their friends in the fields.

This sort of lifestyle for the most part no longer exists in the USA, Canada or other countries because “modern conveniences” have removed the need for the village.

But has it really? It seems unlikely that we’ll ever return to the self-contained village; but, I believe that is our loss. It is that kind of mentality that sees these villages through all the hard times that may befall them. It is that mentality that I would dearly love see return.

I have the privilege of sponsoring 4 World Vision children. My heart aches when I see children today fighting over possession of a toy or anything else. We seem to have become such a nation of "what's in it for me-ers" that we fail to see past ourselves. Yet, I know when I send candies in the mail for my sponsored children not one of them will eat those candies alone. They will share with every single member of their family; so, everyone gets a share of the treat.

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