Portibi Farms’ Sustainable Delicacies

A work in progress, is how Jocean Bowler describes Lodges Ekologika at Portibi Farms, his little slice of sustainable heaven, tucked away in Sukabumi.

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A work in progress, is how Jocean Bowler describes Lodges Ekologika at Portibi Farms, his little slice of sustainable heaven, tucked away in Sukabumi.

JOCEAN FIRST CAME to Indonesia as an 18-year old exchange student. He was fortunate to have lived with a family who taught him much about Indonesia and farming. After that initial visit, he kept coming back, slowly falling in love with the chaos and the beauty of Indonesia.

Started in 2004, Portibi Farms is a working organic farm, built from an old clove plantation, just two and a half hours south of Jakarta. It is a joint venture between Jocean, his wife Ayu and his Indonesian host family, the Harahaps, on a clove and chicken farm they owned, but were not using to full value. Together with their 100% local staff, they run Lodges Ekologika at Portibi Farms.

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Lodges Ekologika is the main idea for Jocean’s unfinished master’s thesis, in the third chapter he wrote: “seeks to find ways in which absentee landlordism can be reduced, imported monoculture commodity oriented systems can be reoriented, and we can all find something useful (and sometimes fun, though this was not allowed in the thesis) to do while the forest is allowed to regrow around us.”

Jocean envisioned a place where people could come to relax and celebrate the beauty of Indonesia’s rich cultural and biological heritage. “Many things can and will happen when you start to do something real, find you like it, and break down an idea into enjoyable, bite sized parts,” Jocean shares.

Portibi Farms is 14 hectares in total land area, about 2 kilometer-long and narrow. The majority of the structures which make up the lodges, are in the middle of the farm, which comprise around 2 hectares. Another 2 hectares are dedicated to commercial farming, 500 meters down the road from the guest areas with bits of farming beginning to infiltrate as landscaping. For the remaining 10 hectares, they are just just starting to plant a combination of indigenous hardwoods, jackfruit, citrus, coffee and clove.

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“We are trying to turn back the tide of deforestation, urban over-migration, and general bad taste that have been pulling down this potentially fantastic country we call Indonesia. We are a working organic farm, a retreat, a budding village factory, a place to dream and create — beautiful things and fantastic flavors.”

Throughout the time we spent at the farm, Jocean clearly showed his motivation. This is his attempt to make one place in the world better through, in his words, a non-revolutionary way of improving a bit of the planet.

“We started this farm because we think that there are a lot of good things from the past that are in danger of slipping away. Indonesia has a wealth of nature, flavors, cultures, and craftsmanship, but because it too often devotes itself to supplying outside interests at a very base commodity level, often people look outside for inspiration and role models, and thus much that is good, from here, is in danger of eroding away,” Jocean explains his motivations.

“So on this farm, we try to create a place where in the rural mountains, away from the big modern and messy city, some of the best of the local past can be fairly applied with proper touches of modern technology. By staying here, you are helping in the preservation of rural farming lifestyles, and by eating our food and squatting over the crops with our team, you will be appreciating them for what they do, while you learn where good food comes from, and what it takes to make it.”

Our stay, though brief, was a way to disconnect from the craziness of the city. There is obviously no WiFi and the location up in the mountains has very weak cellular reception. Not the perfect conditions for deadline week, but we were happy to do it. As the lodge brief read, the place is a bit of a step back in time. A place to enjoy the slow life.

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And that we did. It is an excellent place to open yourself up to nature. You will constantly hear the sounds of the forest, the birds and insects. Plus, you get to enjoy the smog-free fresh air.

All the meals were lovely and delicious. The salads were just amazing. Ayu oversees all the cooking. I watched as Ayu prepared the salads, making sure each freshly harvested green was clean and well-place. All the dressings, she personally made too.

“Our primary farm product and our main course is salad green. The salad and vegetable dishes will change depending on what we’re growing,” he says.

Lunch was an explosion of color and flavor. Handmade whole wheat tacos filled with beef, Jocean’s dad’s red bean recipe, corn, guac, brown rice and mind-blowing fried tempe and fresh sambal.

In the afternoon, we took a walk down to the farms. Just in time for us to meet Alex, Jocean’s brother-in-law, as he tended his own plot of herbs and spices. Further down, we saw rows of salad greens, taro and cassava. We also saw a number of fruit-bearing trees, one of which caught my eye. Locally they call it sawo belanda, but it was very similar to star apple or caimito in the Philippines. The uphill hike to the lodges was not too much fun I have to admit, but when we got up, afternoon snacks were ready, so that soothed things over.

It rained in the early evening, but we were all huddled up at the Pacifist Cannibal Lounge, right between the main kitchen and dining room. Cocktails were then served. Dinner was grilled fish, sourced from a nearby fish pen, yummy salad, blanched greens, oncom and stuffed tofu. We were early to bed, since we were up early that day.

I stayed at The Library room, above the lounge, it is a gorgeous space, the bed draped with a mosquito net, and soon enough, I had passed out.

I was roused from sleep by the sun coming into stretch of windows which lined the room. I opened my eyes and was not ready for the view. The sun was barely peeking from behind Mt. Gede Pangrango, and I could clearly see it as it emerged from its cloudy hideout. I stepped out onto the balcony, barefooted, and just gazed out into the distance. Fog had still covered the small town below. Breathtaking.

I felt recharged. Although we had not totally disconnected (deadline week), we had followed the lodge’s strict rules of no laptops after dinner the night before. And being in tune with nature calmed me down. Jocean says that they want to be The Lorax. A spirit-like being from from the children’s book written by Dr. Seuss, who ‘speaks for the trees’ which said ‘unless someone cares a great deal, the situation will never improve.’

“We want to be The Lorax with a bit of market savvy, a place for you to escape, eat well, get your hands in the water and earth we live from. Feel nature, get in it, work with those who have been making your food all these years, thank them, and see the thanks returned that evening, the produce of your labors laid upon the table for all to savor.” Enough said.

LODGES EKOLOGIKA AT PORTIBI FARMS
Jalan Ekologika nomor 7
CIbuntu, Cicurug, West Java
T: +62 81282118850, +62 81911707365
Instagram: @lodgesekologika
www.portibi.com


Written by Jed Doble Photographs by Yosua Yanuard October 8, 2016.

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