Farms aren’t just for kids but also for adults too. As we grew older, we tend to forget how our food sources come about and how plants are the primary source of food. And as humans, we forgot what it is like to eat fresh food plucked from the garden.
This June, I decided to head back to the farm to learn more about how vegetables are grown and how it is challenging today for farmers to practise sustainable farming. It is like a journey back to understanding the roots of how our food gets cooked, plated and served onto our dining table.
Zenxin Organic Park
There are many farms in Singapore but I wanted to learn about organic farming run by the bigger operators in exporting organic fruits and vegetables. The one that is nearest to our shores is none other than Zenxin Organic Park which is located right in Kluang, Johor which is about 2 hours of bus ride from Singapore. This is an organically-certified farm in Malaysia which has undergone stringent certification checks from National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA).
I decided to bring my parents along who happens to love fruits and vegetables like I do and I was pretty sure that they would enjoy this trip to the farm. They sure did!
Getting To Zenxin Organic Park
It wasn’t too difficult to get there as we requested for the bus driver to stop over at Zenxin Organic Park for us to alight. He kindly agreed so.
Prior to this, we bought our bus tickets for $20 each from The One Travel & Tours and took the 7.30 am bus to Kluang on a weekday. We arrived at Zenxin Organic Park at about 9.20 am.
Thankfully, the weather was good and it wasn’t raining. While we were there, we discovered that there were so many things that got us all engaged. If it can entice me as an adult, I am sure it would be more exciting for the kids who truly need to learn and appreciate about farming and how our food sources come about.
So, if you are heading there to Zenxin Organic Park, here are 24 things you can do!
24 Things You Can Do at Zenxin Organic Park
(Warning: This is a super lengthy post but with loads of ‘juicy’ photos included!)
1. Taste freshly-brewed Organic Mulberry Tea
The friendly staff at the park will welcome you with this freshly-brewed organic mulberry tea upon entering the park. It is made from the leaves of the mulberry plant which are rich in Vitamins B2, C, and K, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It also relieves cold, coughs and throat infections. A great health-boosting tea for the ones recovering from a cold or flu.
Our farm tour starts with this video briefing where we got to know how Zenxin organic farm has started. They actually started as a company that produces organic fertilisers but they eventually decided to use their own fertilizers for planting instead. And that’s how the farm was born!
These are the 3 different types of fertilisers they used for sustainable farming.
2. Create EM Mudballs
Any idea what mud balls are for?
These mudballs are not just any mud balls. They are called EM mud balls which stand for the effective microorganism. These mudballs consist of a mixture of dirt (mud, soil .etc) and bokashi organic matter fermented with effective microorganism). Some of these EM includes lactic acid bacteria and photosynthetic bacteria.
They are allowed to ferment before leaving aside to be dried. Then, they are tossed into water bodies where it could help purify the water and remove deposits of sludge and slime.
3. Visit Zenxin Dragon Fruit Farm
Do you know that dragonfruit is from the cactus family? It has such thick and succulent stems.
Is the flower wilting? It’s just a beginning for something exciting to come. The plant is about to bear fruits!
If you think about it, it’s pretty much similar to our circumstances in life. Just when you think that the worst is yet to come, something fruitful comes out of it. We just need to have faith that something great is about to come.
One of their organic farming methods is to wrap fruits with plastic bags as a way to prevent insects from eating the fruits. Such manual work can be very tedious which is also the reason why organic produce is usually more expensive.
4. Visit Zenxin Mulberry farm
Raw vegans like to use mulberries was a sweetener in place of dates. It’s certainly not as sweet as dates but it is a great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Its fruits aren’t just the ones that are beneficial to our bodies. Even the leaves of the mulberry plant have health-boosting properties of healing cold and minor illnesses.
How to tell if the mulberry is ripe? When they turned really dark…almost like blackberries.
5. Run along and take beautiful shots of the mulberry field
This farm is massive. I couldn’t really see the parameters of the farm unless I am standing on higher ground. If you want to experience that what is it like to roam about in large open fields, here’s a great place to do it and to take a photogenic shot under the blue blue sky. It will definitely make a great photoshoot location especially with the neat rows of mulberry trees.
Climb up the stairs and get a bird’s eye view of the whole farm!
6. Find the 40-day banana
A typical banana plant takes about 90 days for the fruit to ripen and mature but the 40-day bananas take only 40 days to ripen. They are usually much smaller in size than regular bananas due to their quick maturation period but they taste really sweet and creamy.
7. Taste the smallest cucumber in the world.
I told you that these cucumbers are the smallest in the world. It’s called the creeping cucumber. They are so minute that you can’t see them in the photo! Its tendrils will cling onto something else for support. Their fruits tasted very juicy despite its tiny size.
8. Visit the herb garden
Their herb garden is extensive and most of the herbs grown there have medicinal benefits.
This is quite an interesting flower. If you use your imagination a little, you can see 6 birds perching in a circle on the flower. Cute, right?
9. Make a loofah body sponge for yourself
Prior to this farm visit, I actually had no clue what loofah is made out of. I only came to realise that this popular body scrub, which is sold at body spa shops like The Body Shop, is actually a fruit of the plant called luffa. I was truly amazed by how the fruit itself looks like an exfoliating sponge when the skin is peeled away. Guys, this is how fantastic nature is. I really do believe that there are a lot more secrets to be discovered about plants.
When the fruit is ripe, the skin will turn dark brown and that’s when you can peel off the skin and what you see is this long cylindrical luffa fruit with seeds embedded right inside. Once you remove the seeds, you can leave the scrub out to dry under the sun. And once all the moisture is removed, it will turn stiff and hard. Only then, you can transfer it to your bathroom and scrub your way to smoother and healthier skin.
10. Take a selfie with a scarecrow
Hey, I mean it’s very rare to see a scarecrow in Singapore. It’s harmless and it scares crows away. Maybe we should station scarecrows at school canteens and carparks?
11. Harvesting your favourite herbs and bring it home!
Yes! You are able to bring back some fresh organic produce harvests from their herb garden. We brought back some ladyfingers, sweet Thai basil leaves, siam basil, mint, dill, and lettuce.
I haven’t really seen a basil flower and the flower itself carries the same basil scent too.
Have you seen this blue butterfly pea flower? It’s often used as a food colouring for its brilliant blue colour. Natural blue food dyes are rare so I also took a couple of these flowers back.
12. Interact with their pets and meet FLUFFY!
Kids will love this! There are ducks, chickens, rabbits and much more. I manage to cradle fluffy in my arms. Check that out in my Youtube video!
13. Explore around the farm on a bike
You could rent these bikes to tour around the farm by yourself if you just wanted to be a little more adventurous. I would say that the terrain is pretty okay for riders and it is not too dangerous as there weren’t many steep slopes.
14. Buy a terrarium of a mini dragonfruit plant
You will find a whole lot of activities to be done here at their Horti Plant centre where they sell plants, seeds, and cute terrariums.
15. Catch lightning speed fishes!
This is the most challenging activity amongst all because all the fishes were so tiny and they swam super fast. This really tests your patience and where how persistent you are.
We were given each a pail and a net to catch as many fishes as we can. Once you catch the fishes, you will release them back into the waters.
16. Knock for fun! – Create your own flower prints
This activity would entice any ladies. It’s a little like the flower and leaves printing except that you use a hammer to whack it hard till the organic matter leaves an imprint on both sides of the white cloth.
A great stress reliever to release all the tension while knocking!
It’s lovely, right?
17. Play archery
I didn’t get to try out this activity but I would think that the kids and some adults would find this engaging. Let’s just say that my aiming skills aren’t that fantastic.
18. Feed the fishes with ‘fish milk’
This idea of placing soaked fish food balls in milk bottle is quite innovative. Once the fish food has softened in the water, you just shake up the bottle and it produces this suspension of fish food particles mixed with water. It’s just like mixing milk powder with hot water in a milk bottle.
Once you are reading, place the bottle close to the surface and watch how all the fishes dive for the bottle. It’s a more intimate way of feeding the fishes because you can feel their movement in the water.
All these activities are indeed very kid-friendly!
19. Plant a seedling and bring it home!
Lastly but not least, you can bring home a mini potted plant to grow. However, they would give us seaweed instead of soil as the soil might not get through the customs.
These seaweeds are similar to cotton wool which absorbs water and helps plants to stay rooted.
We would fill up our mini pots with some seaweed and then transfer the young seeding into our mini pots.
Once the transplantation is done, stuff more seaweed and it’s good to be brought home!
20. Make your own curry puff
I thought it’s quite a random activity to be making curry puff within the farm but it turns out to be quite fun as I have not made curry puffs before. In addition, these are not made out of potatoes but sweet potatoes!
The trickiest part is to fold the edges of the curry puff to create these beautiful pleats along the sides of the puffs.
We get to eat our own curry puffs which we made!
It turns out to be some tasty and crunchy on the outside.
21. Taste fresh red dragonfruit juice and mulberry juice
You can taste some of the freshest juiciest here like mulberry juice and dragonfruit juice. I personally like the dragonfruit juice a lot.
22. Have steamboat at the Chef Garden restaurant
That’s vegetarian rojak with organic vegetables like cucumber.
This steamboat is for 2 people but I have to say that they are very generous with their portions!
We also tried the mulberry tea.
The fried rice is the bomb because it is so fragrant and appetizing. This is my favourite dish on the table itself!
Broccoli balls, anyone? These are very delicious golden potato broccoli balls too.
What a spread!
We also had desserts but I didn’t quite like the taste of this pumpkin purée. Besides, we were all so full from the sumptuous meal! Not only the food served here is fresh and delicious but it’s also very affordable too.
23. Shop for organic produce at Zenxin organic store
Last but not least, it’s a visit to Zenxin farm mart! I was already eyeing on their organic red dragon fruits which I use in my smoothies.
They even sell their own organic brand of dry products called Simply Natural. They sell interesting products like quinoa pasta, chia seed noodles and etc.
24. Visit Kluang Bat Town
By the time we toured the whole park and complete all the activities, it was already 3 pm. If you still have some energy left at this point, you should make a short tour around Kluang town. It’s worth the trip to explore this part of Malaysia. Read more about it here.
My Heartfelt thoughts
Through this trip, I also finally got to understand the challenges faced by organic farms. To grow fruits and vegetables organically, they have to face counter unexpected external problems like bad weather. Sometimes the rainwater can kill their crops. Furthermore, organically grown vegetables don’t always look 100% perfect. When organic vegetables are exported and packaged, a lot of the so-called ugly leaves and fruits are taken away because we as consumers pick only vegetables that do not have any defects on them.
Having that said, I believe that organic farms still need our support to drive the demand and supply up so that we can all enjoy the true goodness of nature. We should also dispell our misconception of ugly vegetables with holes means unclean or rotten vegetables. In fact, such organically grown vegetables are safe for consumption. I guess we just need to tweak our consumers’ mindset a little and support this way of sustainable farming which will benefit our environment and health as a whole.
Anyway if you love nature and eating greens, you will most certainly enjoy yourselves.
Zenxin Organic Park
Jalan Batu Pahat 86000
Kluang Johor, Malaysia
The organic park opens daily from 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.