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.
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).
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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