Building organic - Part I - Meeting Arafat
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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This is Part I of a III Part series.

Meeting Arafat

by: Kevin Su

Our encounter with Arafat and the team began at the Sun Inn, after a 3 hour stuffy bus ride from KL to Kuala Selangor. My first impression of Kuala Selangor was another dusty town centered around a Tesco strip mall and couple of 24 hour Indian restaurants. The mundane air of the town fumed a sense of local pride as if it didn’t need to prove anything to any tourists wandering this far off the beaten track.  It was a relief to escape the suffocating Malaysian afternoon as we retreated into the air conditioned Hotel eager to meet the crew.

When we entered the room we could tell that the 5 tired and sweaty volunteers crammed in the 3 bed hotel room were queued up for a fresh shower. Lisa from Germany and Dynke from the Netherlands were the first to greet us with their fresh energy and enthusiasm. Bart and Karolina the veteran volunteer couple from Poland introduced themselves and then finally Arafat. This was the team that was going to pave the way for the new Kebun Kaki Bukit organic farm.

It was refreshing meeting so many free spirits from all corners of the world gather for this project. Perhaps we were all enticed by the same idyllic helpX listing which boasted the dragon fruit crops, treehouse, beautiful landscape and charm of Kebun Kaki Bukit's previous location. It was obvious with all of us  gathered there that Arafat had a great vision and was trying create something beautiful. We had arrived just in time for us to move from the hotel to a temporary shipping container at the new farm. It would be our new home until we finished the new structures. AG was excited to practice some architecture and I was up for another adventure.

It didn’t look much like a farm at all when we pulled into the property. huge metal cranes, metal scraps and bare piping lay scattered around what seemed to me like a huge shipyard. Arafat explained that the owner ran a metal and piping business on a portion of the 9 acre property. “we should be getting our own gate soon so we wont have to come in this way” he assured us. As we penetrated through the concrete and metal facade we opened up into a lush overgrown property. “We grow 2 different kind of limes, bananas, coconuts, starfruit, dragon fruit, sugar canes and much more. All expensive crops” Arafat told us as he gave us a tour of the land. if the crops existed they were well hidden behind the tall grass and vines that seemed to have engulfed the farm.

“we’re going to have to strip all the floor out and take down the walls”  We all agreed with Arafat. The entire structure looked like it had been rusting in the ocean. The flimsy zing panels that lined the roof and walls were bleeding rust down its many open wounds. I took a crow bar to the first rotten floorboard. It came out easily as it exposed the intricate ant maze beneath it. It was hard to believe that this was going to be the site of the new farm.

I was relieved that we had just spent 3 days navigating the crowded shopping malls of Kuala Lumpur to sort out AG's new laptop, complete with all her design tools. Her head was pretty much buried into Sketchup as soon as we saw the site. I knew she had a lot of questions for Arafat to start shaping the permaculture paradise that he had in mind. Despite the rough edges we were graced with healthy and abundant crops, free and sturdy metal structures, and some very talented volunteers. I had a feeling that the transformation of the farm was going to be quite spectacular and I was not going to miss out on documenting the magic. I had planned to do a series of timelapses of the evolution which was great because that freed me up to get my hands dirty while the camera shot the action.

Demolition timelapse from Kevin Su Photography on Vimeo.

I spent the next 3 weeks capturing the evolution of Kebun Kaki Bukit Farm.

Click here for part II

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5 Comments
Kevin Su - According to Wahid who has been the caretaker for the land for over 14 years it has always been used to grow fruits. The metal and piping business on the property is fairly new and has only been there for about 2 years. How we came across the structure is due to the luck that the owner of the property invests in shipping containers and renovates them into usable structures as part of his business. Ag will explain more in the next article talking about design.
Andy - Looks like you'll are going to have a good head start using that sweet steel structure and all. What was the building and land used as before the farmers took over anyways?
Stan - Well done Son and a very nice photo. I did not know that Karolina is able to use a hammer.
Karolina - Awesome!!! great job! is so nice be part of this project ;)
BEaTkEePeR - Nice work bro. Can't wait to see the rest of this amazing project!!!