I like to reminisce my childhood activities which I somewhat enjoy. At one time I could clearly recall that the then Prime Minister, the late Tun Razak, encourages the rakyat to grow vegetables in heir backyard or any place they think fit. Being a child who was always asked to go to the nearby sundry shops to buy chillies or taugeh or whatever else by mak, I always heard of mak ciks grumbling about prices of vegetables kept on increasing. I think that was the first time I heard the word inflation. I don’t really know the economic meaning but understood from news papers that price of goods keep on increasing while salary remain stagnant.
So the late Tun Razak make that announcement on TV and other media. I always thought every family will be given a green book that teaches people on how to grow vegetables. I could not actually recall whether there was the book or not. To answer PM call, the Government agency my late dad worked for had a land beside its premise. They divided the land into small lots and then assigned the lots to any staff who like to grow vegetables. The benih would be given free and so were the baja.
One evening, like peneroka, everybody was eager carrying their farming utensils to clear the land. It was quite meriah. I followed mak and my late abah to help them. Actually I was eager to see how eggplant , chillies, sawi came about. As we do not want to plant vegetable others already planned, my parents decided to grow long beans, eggplant,chillies, kacang botol, and a wee bit of kailan. The lot given wasn’t that big actually. We can only managed to get about 5 batas each about 7-8 feet in length. But that is already good enough.
The start was quite tough as almost everyone had little experience developing a farm. The only time we had to man the farm was in the evening after office. I was the only enthusiastic child in the neighbourhood who likes farming. So I let go playing with other kids in the evening as I enjoy running about in the farm and I can also catch plenty ikan laga in a small swamp. That was the first time I come about doing business on my own. The only thing that i did was to search for jam bottles to house the ikan laga I caught. I sold it for 5 sen per ikan laga. Sometimes I will brought it to school to sell to my classmates who ordered from me. The most I brought to school was two bottles which I will sorok in some bushes near the school. After school I passed ’em to my clients. 10 sen! Wow! I was aiming to buy a sling bag which a that time costs RM1.50. I finally made my RM1.50 and got that sling bag which I still keep until today.
Coming back to growing vegetables, the few weeks was indeed a trial and error period. Everyone was worried that what they sow did not menjadi. So they decided to call officers from pertanian to help. After a few weeks solemn faces changes to smiles. Everybody was happy that their crops finally menjadi. It was a delightful sight to see the farm blooming with vegetable products. There were no pasar tani at that time. So all products were for own consumption. If we want to change our selera eating other vegetables, we will ask from farmers who have them. The same goes to everybody else. Mak didn’t complaint about price of vegetables anymore. Some other evenings after mengaji I will go to the nearby fishing jetty to picked small gelama from the fishing vessels after asking permission from the boatmen. Those were fresh fish. The boatmen were actually catching prawns and fishes they caught, the small ones especially will be sent to make baja. So I picked some of them and brought home which mak will make ikan kering. Those were our cheap protein source and its free! Tak kira la orang kata ikan baja ke tak. I was just a kid and I don’t actually knew about high class or low class. All I wanted was to help my parents. Afterall those are fresh fishes. I also asked my poor friends at school to join me and some of them obliged. On Friday evenings when the fishermen took a rest. I will always come by and helped them wash their fishing vessel. In return they will sometime blanja with the sumptuous sambal sotong they cooked for their meals and sometimes they will present me with ikan pari and sometimes cut tenggiri. I could also fished ikan duri on their boat just for fun.
So with free vegetables and lotsa fish everyday, mak and arwah abah never had to worry about spending money on them. They were able to make small savings. We need not worry about our protein and vitamin C. I don’t really know what the heck was that then.
Tun Razak’s buku hijau campaign seems to work especially for people with small pay check. My poor friends were happy because they also got the chance to help their parents.
I became man but those remains intact in my memory. Today I have restarted farming. I grow dragon fruits, rebung madu and limau nipis. It is harder now because all are costs to you. Land gazetted for agriculture I rented was actually a used mining pool. Being sandy it is very porous thus high agriculture input is required to feed the crops. Price of fertilizers kept on increasing but I have learned to make my own using leftovers from my farm. I am still new and I hope, god willing, I could again sell my products and get things I wanted.