Yasmina Hatem

August 13, 2013 NOW goes looking for odd jobs all around Lebanon, exploring different crafts and their environments. This is Part IV of a five-part series. (See Part I, Part II, and Part III.)
the family
In Kannarit, a small village a few minutes
away from Sidon's city center, the El-Hennaoui family owns a farm. The couple who runs the farm isn't as you'd imagine: rather than old villagers, Maha and Ali El-Hennaoui are just under 30 years old, and they left Beirut two years ago to run Ali's family farm.
the cows
Every day, Ali wakes up at 3:30 AM to feed the cows. At 4:30, the cows are milked; and again at 4:30pm. They produce on average 800kg of milk per day, which is sold to factories. "We don't mass produce, we don't try to get more milk out of them than normal," he explains. Their farm isn't officially organic, because feeding the cows imported organic food would cost a lot, and automatically raise their prices. "We're sort of in between," he says. "We don't use any chemicals or hormones, and I prepare their mix of food myself," he continues, showing me the bags of corn, bran, cotton seeds, sunflower, and soy. "It's all natural, but it's not certified organic." As far as I can observe, there is a real connection between farmer and animals in this farm. When Ali calls for his cows, they all come close to him. He even has names for some of them – the ones he likes the most.
new dates
new pic 2
the chickens
the bees
The eggs are completely free-range. The chickens are inside a big enclosed space and left to fend for themselves. "I never feed them," says Ali, "they dig into the soil and eat maggots, which is the normal, natural thing for chickens to eat." There are different kinds of breeds running around, and Ali just brought back some eggs from Holland which he put in an incubator, until they hatch, bringing another breed. Each chicken produces about 160 eggs per year, compared to more than 300 in non-natural farms. Two years ago, when they moved to the farm, Ali decided to try and make some honey. He bought two beehives and a book: "Beekeeping for dummies." And that was that. "The bees work on their own," he explains. "I just put the beehives in the garden and the work is done on its own. They eat the types of flowers that are around, and then I remove their honey when it's time. In winter, I feed them sugar because, after all, we do kind of steal their honey."
the products
Ali's wife Maha works more on the social media marketing of the farm. One year ago they created a Facebook page and started selling products online. During the week, they take orders. Then, on Sundays, when they know exactly how much to produce, Ali makes cheese, laban, and labneh, himself. "It's all completely fresh and we don't use any kinds of preservatives, so the products need to be eaten within the week."In Ali's opinion, organic is great health wise, but the certification requirements makes the product extremely expensive. He manages to keep prices low but still ensuring that it is all done as naturally as possible. "I think the most important part is for one to know their farmer. Pick a farm, and go visit it, just know what you are buying, and ultimately, eating."
Barrels of milk before they get
final chicken