People call Laura “the jungle place,” when in fact “the country side” would be more accurate as the number of farms, some full-decked with crops and animals, have been steadily increasing in the past few years.
Starting from the first district, Jeirok, there are already more than a couple of home-sized farms. Junior Zebedy’s is a few feet away from the Taiwan Technical Farm (known as Laura Farm) where he gets seedlings. Among the assorted number of crops he plants, Zebedy grows long beans, bok choy, and cabbage. Cucumbers have proved a challenge as pests, mainly insects, keep coming back despite using pesticides to ward them off. Caterpillars also require pest control. For weed control and loosening the soil, a plow is used regularly.
Of his farm he says, “It’s mine, but it’s also for everybody. It’s a close-knitted community where we help each other out.” Zebedy also runs a small mom and pop store where his chicken ramen and manju, both made with fresh veggies, are a favorite among the customers. Visiting the humble home means a cup of calming tea made from bitter melon and leaves from the “tree of life” (moringa) growing outside his back door.
Marton Lolin is part of a circle of full-time farmers in Laura. His farm lives in the heart of Iolap. The other two farm hands that help maintain the farm, which is bigger than most and surrounds the family’s house, are his wife Marilla Capelle and 11-year-old son Nilo. Among the many things the family grows are squash, bell pepper, and bottle gourd. “It’s a main source of income, and it brings in more than what a regular job would,” Capelle claimed.
Other than the farm being all-natural-and-organic, it has its own greenhouse where seedlings are grown and used to sustain the farm after harvesting. Before, the farm had a problem with pilferers. The family of farmers would wake up to a “bald” atake (garden). Fortunately, the veggie and fruit thieves seemed to have disappeared along with a bunch of adolescent ri-nana (troublemakers) who’ve migrated off-island in recent years.
Lolin’s farm circle carpools on specified days to head to town with trucks brimming with harvested produce. They are on demand by the two supermarkets, various restaurants and stores. When the Farmers’ Market is held on Saturdays at the CMI basketball court, the circle is there. They have been doing business with MISCo Market in Uliga since it opened recently.
In Lomar, Malok weto, the front road separates the home of middle-aged couple Takirua Taie and Marlyna Laibwij from their backyard atake. Their relatively new farm produces eggplant, papaya, cabbage, tomato, and bottle gourd — all of which are bought by people conducting food workshops in Laura, and even Chinese businesses who travel to Laura from town.
Read more about this in the January 19, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.