Married for almost 50 years to Siew Fong Yin, the dreaded news came to them in the peak of their life.
Seeing his wife going through series of treatment and medication, Lee decided four years ago to turn into farming having in mind of his wife’s condition where food intake was one of the criteria for good recovery.
“I was a city boy, born and bred in the town of Jesselton somewhere in Bandaran Berjaya 70 years ago.
As I grew up, I was very much involved into businesses dealing with profit makings, operate restaurants and so on.
Not a clue on farming, never even touched the soil.
“But today, you see me roaming around this farm in my boots, hat and towel hanging over my shoulders and that has been my routine ever since. My wife’s ailment became a turning point for me and my family,” Lee said.
He first got into farming, there were just a few types of vegetables grown and simple method of farming applied.
All he wanted was to plant home-grown vegetables where his wife and family could consume it without worrying.
He said during the first year, he used to open only to cancer sufferers and they could get vegetables for free for the whole year.
“It was like a trial run for me. During the first year, friends and relatives came to see how I was doing, people who had diseases came to get whatever vegetation available at that time for free. I was very happy that I let people try my home grown vegetables.”
Today, Lee’s wife has recovered and they live a healthy lifestyle by going into nature everyday.
They would start their day by going to the farm from 10am onwards.
“Most of the time, my wife would spend some time here, walking around the farm, stretching at her favourite nook and just enjoy nature as much as she could. I would normally stay longer as I would see visitors and share my experiences and tell people about benefits of eating certain vegetables.
“It is a kind of therapeutic activity. It is so amazing how the morning activity can do wonders to us.
It is so rejuvenating, we feel fresher each day,” he said, adding that people should not to miss light exercises regardless of where they are.
Today, apart from enjoying the freshness of the ambience in the farm, they consume healthy and pesticide-free vegetables everyday. Visitors also benefit from the farm as some buy them while others would dine at the farm to get the freshest meal.
“Food plays important role in cancer sufferers. What you eat is what you get. If you consume food that is free from any chemical, then you are eating it without damaging your body organs.”
Lee visited Manila some years ago and it was from there that he had some ideas how to start farming.
The interest and passion came naturally for him after gaining some knowledge and tips how to start of the new hobby despite starting it at a later age, in his mid-60s.
“No rules or whatsoever applied when I began doing it. However, a lot of common sense needed, and I used observation and experiments to become better each day. I started farming when I was already in my 60s.
So, there is no excuse for anyone to start up something at any age,” he quipped.
“I have visitors coming here everyday,” referring to his farm in the valley. When he first started, there were no cooking services as they only focused on planting vegetation.
“Today, I open up my farm not only for visitors to enjoy seeing my plants, they can also pluck vegetables of their choice, buy them to bring home or they can get my staff to cook,” he said.
His three sons are also helping him in the farm.
When asked about how he managed his one-acre land, he disclosed that he has about 10 workers including two cooks staying in the farm looking after the plants, livestock, kitchen duties and so on.
“My cook, Yacob, has been with me for about three years. He can cook almost anything you ask him.
All my visitors enjoy eating here. I guess not only the food, but the ambience too play its part,” he said as he showed the surrounding of his valley where vegetation are growing healthily and livestock are seen roaming around freely on the other side of the farm.
Lee’s cook, Yacob Dulahim from Sembulan, has been staying in the farm for the past three years.
He said he enjoyed every moment there.
“I don’t think I want to work elsewhere, I can get fresh air here. I get to cook for people who enjoy my cooking, nothing fancy actually, they are simple cooking. But vegetables are all fresh and safe to eat,” he said..
Yacob showed the tomato seedlings which were placed on the top floor of one of the dining area, saying that some of the vegetables could not make it due to some reasons.
“I learned that Mr Lee had tried planting tomato for a number of times but it wasn’t successful.
So, we tried to hang the stems and it was beginning to fruit. Well, we tried whatever ways, it was fun doing all the trial and error. Experimenting anything that come to mind.”
Although engaged as the farm cook, Yacob would spend his free time going around learning about planting various types of vegetables.
Lee had a unique way of going about in his farm. He said to always treat vegetation like human being.
“People are careful with what they consume, and so does vegetables. When you feed them (vegetables), with chemical, don’t you think it is unfair for the plants to grow unnaturally? And in the end, who suffer?
First, the vegetable, then the soil and in the end humans will be the one consuming chemical contaminated vegetables.”
He advised that when one wants to grow vegetables or any plants, one must be honest and whole-heartedly take up the hobby without pressure.
“You need to treat every single vegetable that you grow like a human being. You give them food that are fit for their growing process. You see them as though you want to find out how they are doing for the day.
It is not just watering them and you go. Spending a bit of time looking at each of them is also a therapy.
“Nature provides us so many goodness but we cannot see the goodness instantly, we need to pause, there are so many good things in life we just let it pass. One good example is the early morning period of the day.
You want to enjoy freshest air, go out in the early morning and feel the air. I can guarantee that it will make you happy.
“Farming is fun, but you need to do some reading about it. Some people may be mistaken nature farming as organic farming. It has some differences. You can read from the internet about it. It is good to have some knowledge before embarking on farming. It helps in some ways,” said Lee.
“At the moment, I have a few types of vegetables such as kale, varieties of lettuce, broccoli, mushroom, herbal vegetables, brinjal and some others. One third of the vegetation is kale.
“Do you know that kale is the super-food of the century?
“I grow one third of kale in my farm. I know its benefits and they are very expensive in the market and furthermore not all markets have it. Just look at the leaves, the green is so deep, as it contains good mineral our body need.”
He also disclosed that water played an important factor for the growth of good vegetables.
“Heard of structured water before? I am using this device since two years ago and I saw wonders in my plants.
They grow healthily and even faster.
“I was told that the water going through the device would be structured in the sense that the mineral and oxygen are well kept without destroying any of the molecules.
“I tried it and I notice my plants are hardly attacked by insects and the soil turns fertile.
When soil becomes fertile, you can see the stems are stronger and not easily being harmed by insects or pests.”
He said that using the structured water device had improved his soil and kept pests away from his vegetation.
He added that he made the right choice to invest one of the devices, as he got long term benefit for his plants.
“In the end it is the people benefiting from it. We eat all the good food and it is good news to our body.”
Apart from walk-in visitors, there are school students and other institutions visiting Lee’s valley.
“We have visitors as young as kindergarten children and they even do planting activities.
I am happy to see many people are health conscious now and are willing to invest in this course.
“The exposure to farming should be done from the early age, as it is easy to teach the young ones and when they grow older, they have gained some skills in farming which is good for their lifestyle in the future.”
He said anyone who comes to his farm will benefit especially on education about looking after nature.
“To be responsible for nature today is the greatest treasure – it prepares for good and safe environment in the future for the next generation.”