MARANG: Determination and a well-planned approach to turn a four-hectare land at Bukit Kemas near here into a new agro-tourism attraction in the district is slowly paying off for Mohammad Salleh Angullia Esa.
Salleh, who is a technician by profession, loved agriculture as a hobby but little did he dream that it would one day become a labour of love that is turning his family abode - perched on a hill 200 metres above sea level with a clear view of Pulau Kapas - into an attraction.
The 26-year-old father of an eight-month-old son, who has no agriculture background, depended on the Youtube for information and knowledge, and used his brawns to build terraces around the house.
Over the past five years, he has planted more than 50 types of plants, including strawberries, chilies, eggplant and figs. Some provided him with income, while some perished and had to be replaced with other cash crops.
“Over the past two years, I started planting the Alphonso Lavalle, a grape variety from France. It is a bit sour with a tinge of sweetness. It adapted well to our climate but it is not a table variety,” he said in an interview with the New Straits Times today.
Salleh said the success of Alphonso Lavelle prompted him to buy three more varieties of grapes, namely the IAC, Black Ozark and Isabelle, and all adapted well and bore fruits.
“I imported more cuttings from Europe and now have 10 additional table grape varieties. They growing well and I expect them to bear fruits next year,” he said, adding that he plans to turn all available land near the house into a vineyard.
Even before his grapevine project became a reality, Salleh said he was already receiving some 500 visitors from near and far, most of whom wanted to know how he turned the idle land into vineyard and the best varieties for local climate conditions.
“Some of my guests have problems getting accommodation and I had to assist them to stay in nearby lodging facilities. It gives me an idea to plan and build a homestay within my house compound.
“I plan to develop it in a ‘Little England’ concept. In five years, I hope to make this dream a reality. My guests can stay in a homestay facing the sea, overlooking Pulau Kapas and the South China Sea, and watch the glitter of lights from fishing boats jigging for squids.
“The design for Little England has already started and I believe it is going to be another popular tourist destination which offers a European feel with vineyards all around and free taste of ripe and juicy grapes of many varieties,” he said.
Salleh said owners of idle land around his home could start growing grapes as a side income, as well as to substitute imported varieties because it has been proven that local grapes are just as sweet as the imported ones.
“More importantly, the vineyard can become another tourism product for the district, besides the visit to Pulau Kapas and the buying of keropok lekor or salted fish, which are already popular here,” he said.
Salleh also hoped that his effort would get the attention of the local authority and government agencies, especially towards supporting the expansion of the vineyard and boost local production of table varieties.