Breaking the Chains of Traditional Farming


Learn about one man’s passion to provide healthy produce for us all.

Maher Al Buti is a Hofuf local who owns not only one of the oldest organic farms in the country but also one of the only non-private organic farms that produces to the public in Sharqiya. He received his organic certification in 2009 and has been producing organic produce every season since.

Why did you decide to adopt organic farming?
I was specifically interested to get off the addiction to pesticides and chemical fertilizer. As farmers we are slaves to that industry and all the money we make goes into buying chemicals that pollute the water and food with these poisons and strip the soil of its nutrients. There was a governmental initiative to increase awareness about organic farming that showed me how to break free from the industry.

Has organic farming affected your water consumption?
Definitely. Over the past seven years my water consumption has dropped from 45 minutes of watering a day to just 20 minutes. My electric bill was slashed from 3,000 to 1,200 Riyals a month. My soil has more essential nutrients, needs less water and consumes less electricity.Screen-Shot-2016-08-14-at-10.28.09-AM

Any other benefits?
Let’s talk bugs. Chemical fertilizer invites an invasion of bad bugs to the soil and inflates produce (stretching its skin too thin like a balloon). This allows bugs to break the skin easily, creating a cycle of attracting more bad bugs.

Organic farming has led to thicker-skinned organic vegetables, deterring those bugs and also bringing in new ones I had never seen before that are actually beneficial to the soil.

Do you face any challenges with organic farming?
It’s a lot more work and our production dropped more than half in the first five years. The transition was also costly so we had to adjust prices just to break even.

Also, the market doesn’t value organic. People don’t question visiting a doctor for health issues potentially linked to food quality, but they do find it too costly to eat organically.

Organic produce should be like quality clothes: expensive but long-lasting (in this case, what’s long lasting is your good health).zucchini-plant

Why don’t you sell your produce in local grocery stores?
Most chain stores want an exorbitant rental price that kills my profit. However, I have been able to sell in LuLu Hypermarket. Otherwise I offer weekly boxes of vegetables to subscribing customers that pay up front for the whole season.

What’s your season of productivity like?
Our regular season spans from November to June.

Is there anything you want to leave our readers with?
Pay a little higher for groceries and skip the doctor bills. Prevention is the best cure.

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Being Responsible with Your Food


Learn about one farm’s mission to be different and socially responsible.

Nidal Farms is an excellent, sustainably responsible source of food right here in Sharqiya. As a hydroponics and aquaponics farm, they value water as a resource and attempt to conserve it, making them sustainable but not yet officially organic. They did apply for the organic certification but the process needs third party supervision and takes at least two years.

Below is my interview with Khalid Chaouki, the executive manager of Nidal Farms for the past eighteen months.Screen-Shot-2016-07-14-at-10.40.07-AM

Why was Nidal Farms created?
It was created four years ago with the intention of its founder, Nidal Lababidi, to provide something that is clean, healthy and green to his family, friends and the local community. Originally it was a family farm, but has grown significantly and has sister farms in Al Hasa and Qasim.

What does it mean to be a hydroponics and aquaponics farm?
The idea for it came from a farming engineer formerly with the company who established these systems since they were wholly centered around conserving water, a main concern for the owner. There are a lot of factors to it, but one example is that we rely on organic waste from fish and duck manure for fertilizer.NidalFarm_source-5

What are your biggest challenges as a local farm?
Definitely the weather. Sandstorms are a major challenge. Also, we’re still learning since we are new to agriculture. Even our packaging has changed a lot.

What else can you tell us about the farm?
It’s an amazing vision from Lababidi. He created the farm after witnessing a worker on another farm eating the vegetables immediately after he had sprayed the produce with pesticides. Later Lababidi found out that farms all over the world use pesticides liberally, then pick the produce quickly and turn the soil for more output.NidalFarm_source-4

We’re concerned about our health and the environment and they only think about the quickest way to make money. So we ask ourselves these questions in Nidal Farms: How can we eliminate pesticide-use? Are we taking care of the resources and land?

Nidal Farms doesn’t think of itself as a business, but more a social mission. It requires a ton of expenses and a lot of time and care, but we’re focused on providing good and healthy products while still protecting the environment.vegetables-variety

Nidal Farms’ produce can be found in Tamimi Markets, Danube and Carrefour. They can also be reached for private home orders once a week at: +966-539411187. Just ask for Amal.


Got Water?


What can we do to keep our water flowing?

Our precious water supply is dwindling and our consumption is rising, so I interviewed Saudi environmental activist Najwa Al Bukhari about what we could do to protect it.

Najwa, what’s our water situation?

Being a desert country, 85-90 percent of what we’ve been consuming is nonrenewable fossilized water in the ground. This is ancient water that had collected thanks to thousands of years of rainfall in the western mountainous region and filling a desert basin across the country.

We’ve been relying on that basin for our homes, industry and agriculture for decades. Based on the 2014 National Water Strategy Report, 80 percent of it has gone to local agriculture that has been unable to fulfill its goal of food self-sufficiency.

What does this mean for us?

We have to change our mindset from consumption consumption consumption and think about what we can do to reverse things.shutterstock_319922258

So what can we do?

I always look for hope. Where I’ve found it is in permaculture, a farming system that has been able to bring rain back to arid lands.

Trees bring about clouds and the more we plant smartly the more likely we will stop the dust storms that are an ever-present reality for us, which is a far cry from the blue skies of my childhood.

In permaculture there are certain trees that are planted in desert climates, with root systems that go vertically instead of horizontally, and they go very deep.Al_Kharj_WWTP_2

Great, so we just go out and plant trees everywhere then?

We still have a lot to study. Where to plant and what to plant is critical to this equation and we need to learn from how others such as Kenya, a region in China and Jordan did it. There’s even a project near Makkah implementing these very principles.

If we put our minds together and seek experts – like Geoff Lawton who’s in Jordan – then there’s hope. There are databases that say what grows best at what latitude and there are individuals in the government who are willing to help.

Helping our government empowers everyone and our government has carried the brunt of our water expenses for too long. Permaculture directly addresses the root cause and helps us fix our water and dust storm problems.

If you feel inspired to help the water/dust storm cause please contact Najwa Bukhari at or myself at