In the recent past, farming was looked down upon as a menial and lowly occupation. Many Malaysians would rather look for work in an air-conditioned office than toil in dirt and sweat outdoors. Also, most of the labour intensive jobs were given to migrant workers instead.
These days, however, there is a rising trend of Malaysians who have started picking up gardening tools to work under the hot and humid tropical climate. They even leave their high-paying jobs to do so. When asked for reasons behind their decision, these fledgling farmers cite many different reasons.
Among the biggest factor is their realization that living in an urban setting is very stressful and unhealthy. Among some consumers, there seems to be a high demand for affordable organic food coming from local produce. "What better way to obtain them than to grow them ourselves?" seems to be the shared opinion.
Goods and Services Tax or better known as GST was implemented in April 2015. The rate is fixed at 6% in most purchases, even when buying food, items in small restaurants, and local grocery shops. This increase in expenses makes the idea of growing their own food an even more attractive alternative. There is a rise of interest in urban gardening, community farms, and finding ways to plant vegetables and fruits without the need of owning a plot of land.
Aside from its personal use, some of the excess crops can be shared among the neighbourhood. They can also generate a small profit for the individuals or community that worked with the plants. Another benefit is that growing the crops creates "green spaces" in the surrounding areas while also allowing for a the possibility of an alternate sustainable creative economy.
Another even more interesting benefit is that many of the plants that end up harvested are not just food, but they can also be made into herbal remedies, beauty products, crafts and much more. When it comes to the creative economy, nobody does it more vibrantly than the young generation.
There seems to be a flurry of articles claiming that Millennials are lazy and keep on changing jobs. However, this is far from the truth. Many of them do not want to live the way previous generations did, where the environment is getting polluted by the day due to excesses. If possible, many of them want to find ways to live an eco-friendly lifestyle in order to slow down or reverse the negative impact on the Earth.
Hence, working in farms or gardens is the best solution for them. They seek more job satisfaction over high wages- and freedom to choose over becoming part of the rat race. Many of these youth do not care much about what is normal, but rather-- what is meaningful. One can tell when they are working on their farms and gardens that they are working like they are prepared to live for a better and healthier future.
We will be sure to check back on this interesting trend in Malaysia in a future "Eye on Asia" blog.
When it comes to the creative economy, nobody does it more vibrantly than the young generation.