My Story

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

City guy. Graduate. Get a regular job in the city. Boring corporate life. Hoping for something more fulfilling. Fast forward almost 15 years ahead. Dipped my toes into farming. Absolutely loved it. Can I do this forever? Is this a viable profession? Does it pay well? But should everything always be about the money? More importantly, can this venture be sustainable?

The farm with a freshly cleared patch of land where a nursery is to be built (Jul 2019).
The farm with a freshly cleared patch of land where a nursery is to be built (Jul 2019).

That’s a flash to sum it all up about me. I’ve always wondered if there’s any possibility of leaving the rat race to pursue a rural life in a kampung¬†(Malay language for a village). This is the thought I’ve been grappling with for the past 4 years. It wasn’t that all surprising as I’ve always been known to possess a streak of love for nature, longing for the outdoors and a knack for gardening.

The corporate working life pays well. There were never worries about getting bills paid monthly. It wasn’t long before boredom sets in. I left the corporate world when I realised I wasn’t going anywhere. 7 years ago, I started my own business which ultimately grew into a creative house. Small business. But good enough to see me through financially while offering much personal freedom to explore other interests. However, there has always been a lingering void.

4 years ago, I discovered the joys of working in the outdoors and getting my hands dirty in farming on a small 2-acre agriculture plot of land at Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan in Malaysia. There was no looking back ever since. However, it wasn’t until May 2019, that I started looking into this seriously while coming to grips with almost insurmountable headwinds. It was and will always be an important turning point in my life.

Melvin completed his PDC in July 2019 under the tutelage of 4 experienced permaculturist and educator: Rosemary Morrow, Kat Lavers, Greta Carroll and Narsanna Koppula, that saw him obtaining a Permaculture Design Certificate endorsed by the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute.

The immensely enriching, hands-on and intensive PDC course was a comprehensive program that helped kickstart his foray into permaculture applications for sustainable living as life’s calling. Driven by faithful adherence to permaculture principles, he hopes the My Kampung Life venture breaks even at the 4th year mark and blossoms into a profitable business on the 6th year.

 

WHY "MY KAMPUNG LIFE"

"My Kampung Life" is an ongoing controlled experiment to determine how far can a cash-strapped urbanite and kampung boy-wannabe go to achieve the dream of living a rural life. By the same token, I hope it also prods others to think twice about the basic necessities of life and perhaps live vicariously through this very lens I'm shaping to attain an alternative vision for a sustainable lifestyle. "My Kampung Life" essentially offers a glimpse into the potential of generating income from a small piece of land; a daunting task on a road less travelled. More importantly, the "My" in "My Kampung Life" invites one to consider one's own possible country life, especially in an increasingly urbanised Malaysia.

I eagerly started making plans to make the land productive and profitable. To do that, I have to first plan for how to strike a balance between running a business in KL while being physically engaged with matters at the farm. It’s difficult, but necessary. If I were to farm full time, which I envision myself to be in the near future, I have to slowly detach from my engagements in KL and find some permanence at the farm.

My farm also serves as a home ground to the operations of Soilogy, a business venture that helps people grow their own food and implement permaculture principles for sustainable living. As an active permaculture demonstration site, this farm is used to showcase how a matured food forest system free of chemical use can be implemented to mimic the natural ecosystem.

When I first set foot on this place 4 years ago, the farm was not in good shape. Long abandoned and poorly maintained, nature has fully reclaimed it. The long rocky road to recovery is fraught with treacherous encounters that challenges one mentally, physically, and most of all, financially. It’s my life’s journey of sowing the seeds of risks that would hopefully grow into highly favourable rewards if successful.

This blog is dedicated to that journey.

Melvin Tong
My Kampung Life
– Sep 2019