by Sissy Mallard
Healthy, fresh food is the key to a satisfying, productive life and what I found at Mr. Anh’s farm certainly fills the bill with colorful fields that are overflowing with many different varieties of vegetable and fruit crops. Along with lush green and golden tan rice paddies as far as the eye can see, vegetables and fruits such as eggplant, corn, okra, morning glory, beans, water spinach, winter melon, bitter melon and red amaranth are thriving in the bright hot Hoi An sun. After tasting this bounty and experiencing this place for myself, I understand why the local people here are such a hearty, content lot.
The land on this huge farm is divided up and allocated by the Vietnamese government into small parcels to families according to the number of members in each. These families then own the land, paying meager taxes to cultivate and produce crops of their choosing but most seem to grow and bag rice as it is the most profitable either to personally trade or sell. There are about 100 families that own different sections of this farm, their work process is backbreaking, mostly done by women but everyone seems to function together in a manner that is worthwhile for all, especially during the rice harvest which takes place twice a year. The watering system used is very interesting with wells dug at strategic locations throughout that pump water into small canals that run between sections and smaller trenches that are between the rows of crops, water is hand-pumped but some use small motorized pumps to fill their channels.
Always keep in mind that these farmers waste nothing, from the straw after the rice harvest to the loofah sponge that is created when the melon fruits dry out, these smart people find a way to benefit. Crops are rotated in different seasons to preserve nutrients in the soil, reduce erosion and farmers actually yield better crops when this is done. I quite enjoy their creative “scarecrows” and use of netting to keep birds and bugs from eating the fruit and vegetables. And don’t be surprised if you come across a burial site or cemetary plot in the middle of a corn field, the farmers believe that their ancestors are watching over them, protecting the land and helping reap larger harvests.
I feel that not enough Americans, particularly children, have any idea where the food they consume comes from and do not show enough respect for the arduous process that is farming. The end products, particularly in Mr. Anh’s Garden are tasty, fresh fruits and vegetables that will nourish your body, keep you living longer and provide that healthier lifestyle that we all desire. Mr. Anh is also a great cook and prepares a delicious picnic style lunch that results in this stop on the Vespa Adventures Countryside tour of Hoi An being a fan favorite. He is bringing the farm-to-table concept to a higher level, the hospitality and personal service he shows to every guest that visits is touching and warms my heart. You fill up on rice noodles, rice crackers, eggplant, salad and melon, all freshly prepared by this humble man and served with pride, you leave with a much better understanding and appreciation of farming and your mind, body and soul are better for the experience.