An organic farm in Saudi Arabia – Part 1

If you’ve ever wondered what an organic farm in Saudi Arabia looks like, now’s your chance!

Even before I was born, over a quarter of a century ago to be precise, a young Saudi man decided that he was fed up of not finding high quality, nutritious and organic food in the region. He searched high and low…from Makkah to Eastern Province, from Jouf to Asir and even Central Province, just in case there was a lonely desert farmer he could purchase from. But alas…twas to no avail.

He thought about leaving Saudi Arabia. Egypt seemed like a good option. Yet the thought of leaving his country behind, just so he could get organic food, was not something he was happy with. He thought and thought on what to do.

Then, as if it was planned for him, he received his inheritance. It was not much, just one acre of land in the north of Saudi Arabia. He began researching and learning, trying to figure out what would be the best crops for his little piece of land. Soon he started planting, and season after season, his crop yields were successful and steadily increasing. There was just one problem…he found that the more he produced, the more people wanted his produce. He thought it was phenomenal at how word of mouth could create such high demand.

This inheritance had a catalytic effect that today he and I are ever so grateful for! Gradually, he began to slowly buy more land and started producing even more food. Today, he has three farms, making him one of the most experienced and oldest established organic farms in Saudi Arabia.

Despite his achievements, he is ever so humble. Shunning most media, he was hesitant for me to even mention his story! He cares for no titles or personal awards. As he simply says, “I farm not for my ego, but because I want to eat organic food. I believe it is the best, and people everywhere are slowly starting to realise this too.”

So ladies and gentleman, without further ado, please enjoy some of the pictures of one his farms. I really hope this will give you an insight to what farming in Saudi Arabia is like. The farm’s certification comes from Europe, who carry out random checks throughout the year, ensuring that there’s no presence of chemicals or pesticides. I have to mention this point, as I understand that a few people believe the organic produce in Saudi is “fake.”

Now a special mention goes to all the employees who are responsible for the sowing, planting and picking of the vegetables. The farm pictured below has 40 employees, a mixture of Egyptian, Sudanese and Bangladeshi labourers. Put some of these workers anywhere else, imagine the chaos and disagreements that would occur. However, these employees are the happiest workers that I have ever come across, anywhere in the world! They live in very simple housing on the farm grounds, but this does not bother them. They are over one hour from the nearest town, but even then, they still love their life at the farm. To tell you how far away this place is from neighbours, just imagine that the prayer call does not reach this area. We questioned them to see if they received a job offer paying 10 times their current salary, would they consider a move to Riyadh. Some hesitated, but the general answer was a stern “No.” Such loyalty to their job and their boss is hard to come across anywhere.

Thinking of the Five Element Theory, you will notice that all five elements are present on the farm, which of course keeps them balanced. There is the water energy in the form of the property’s river, tree energy comes from all the trees and plants they grow, and the sun provides the fire energy, shining 365 days a year. The soil energy is present from all of the physical contact with the soil that a farm requires, and there is metal energy from all the animals present.

This farm is an amazing place! My pictures do not do it justice! Thank you to all the wonderful people who made this visit possible. This will certainly be one of those memories that will forever be cherished.

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Organic tomatoes! By the way, look at how his hands are just made for farming.

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The cutest tree!

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An orange tree

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Greenhouses to protect the vegetables from the summer heat.

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Organic rosemary plants ready to be transplanted

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Aloe Vera plants

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More plants

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Aloe Vera and other plants

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Fresh organic flowers! The scent was absolutely amazing – it was so strong! The scent can whisked me away to my childhood, it was so beautiful.

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This is alfalfa.

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I’m so used to seeing the alfalfa sprouts so it’s strange to see the whole plant. At the back, you can see the farm supervisor. He’s Egyptian, and was so nice to us. Alfalfa is used to feed the animals and also needed for the compost.

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It really does not feel like you’re in Saudi Arabia! Seeing this much greenery astonished me, and this sight, of the two employees and the horse out in the fields, was breathtaking. I just wanted to sit and stare, which is so unlike me. Even though the workers had no common language between them, aside from Broken Arabic, the cutting, raking in and transporting of the alfalfa flowed like it was a dance. It was mesmerizing!

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I really have to hand it to these workers! In the midday sun, and still hard at work. workers like these are far and few, they had immense pride in their work and believed that sustainable organic farming is one of the keys to great health! Thank you for the positive energy into growing our organic food!

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Harvesting the alfalfa sprouts

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This is a cotton plant.

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No matter which way you looked, all you could see is green!

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I really can’t explain how beautiful, how serene and how much positive energy is in this place!

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These are wild cactus plants.

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Organic cotton

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Organic cotton is sent to a textile manufacturer who uses it to make bedding and t-shirts.

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Sweet potato

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The coriander (or cilantro as some people like to call it) is flowering.

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Lettuce being watered

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We saw a gigantic locust!

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Lots and lots of arugula

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Lush green and peppery arugula

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A sunflower! Really good for the compost and also for attracting beneficial insects.

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Beetroots

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The massive compost pile

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More of the compost pile and the irrigation is also visible in the background.

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This is my absolute favourite – Fennel! Fresh fennel reminds me of so many happy memories in France and Italy!

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Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse. They have 16 greenhouses devoted to tomatoes! I wonder when and why the world started this tomato over-consumption!

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The best thing about this farm is there is a whole river running through it. It’s man-made and acts as an irrigation system.

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These are grape vines that were being transplanted when we were there. I can’t wait to taste the grapes in May.

6 responses to “An organic farm in Saudi Arabia – Part 1

  1. He should invest in a drip irrigation system his current irrigation system is wasting huge amounts of water.
    Thanks for the post great picture and luck to him with the farms🙂

    • Hi Talal,

      Thanks for visiting and your comment.

      Firstly though, I must ask, what are the animals in your avatar? They’re too cute!

      I think all farms in Saudi should have mulching and drip irrigation as standard. I agree with you, that the farm is using an unnecessary amount of water. However, he is using a sustainable water resource, and not desalinated water. The farm is actually too remote to even be close to a neighbour who receives desalinated water.

      Anyway, to respond to your comment, this farmland was the last to implement the drip irrigation system and as of April 2013, they’re using only drip irrigation. One point to water conservation I say!

      By the way, are you Saudi or a farmer? How or why do you know about drip irrigation?

      All the best,
      Sarah

  2. Pingback: An Organic Farm in Saudi Arabia – Part 2 | Desert Enlightenment·

  3. I appreciate your efforts to make saudia become the cent percent organic country in gulf. I am an organic farming consultant in india uae and presently in ksa. The cheapest way to use our native saudi cow (bos indicus) is very much affordable way of farming to attain ur goal. No need to purchase any agricultural inputs from the market. 1 gram of saudi cows fresh samadh it contains 3000 millions of effective microbes that it enrich the entire soil and plant growth. To make em, plant growth promoters, compost tea, org pesticides and Fungicides with the help of saudi cow, one cow is enough for 12 hectares of land and the farming cost is almost nil. For further queries… pls do not hesitate to contact thru my email greensavoice@gmail.com

  4. nice farm over there…would you help me find rosemary to plant in our small garden here inn Jeddah? thanks for sharing…

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