One of the things we tend to miss out on by living in the UAE, is access to what many of us consider ‘normal’ experiences. That is, the sort of things that there are plenty of in our home countries, or that we ourselves may have fond memories of doing when we were growing up. So when I saw Emirates Bio Farm pop up in my instagram feed one evening, advertising their forthcoming open day and farm tour, I thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity for a lovely, but slightly different to the usual UAE day out. Here’s what we found…
Emirates Bio Farm is located out past Sweihan in Al Ain. It’s a bit of a trek from Abu Dhabi city at around an hour and a half drive, but our experience was that it was well worth the effort and made a great family day out, and offered something quite different and unusual to do for this part of the world.
While the farm is open every weekend, we went along for the recent UAE Mother’s Day Open Day which meant there was a bit more than usual going on. It was Dhs35 per person to get in, and no charge for kids under six.
The charge includes access to the farm visitor centre and a farm tour by tractor, where as well as learning a bit about organic farming, there’s also an opportunity to harvest some veg to take home.
On arrival we were given our entrance ticket and assigned to the next available farm tour. They run on the hour every hour and we found ourselves with about 45 minutes before the tour was due to start. But there’s plenty to do to keep everyone busy around the visitors area and despite there being two different kids arts and crafts taking place that day under the outdoor gazebo, my son made a bee-line straight to the kids play area which is kitted out with a suitably themed oversized play tractor!
There’s also a small area with a few goats to look at, and if you’re there at the right time you might even be able to join in with feeding time.
Five minutes before our allotted farm tour time we were asked to line up by the white fence where everyone boarded the trailers pulled by tractor and we set out on our adventure. I think my son would have been happy if that was all there was to it, he was already so excited just to have the chance for a tractor ride!
A short drive later, it’s time to get off the tractor and out into the fields where we were asked to gather around and answer questions about organic farming. It’s all done in an interactive format and though it’s better suited for older kids it doesn’t last so long as to be boring for the little ones.
Next stop was onto harvest some veg, and on the day we were there it was kale and onions that were ripe for the picking. We were shown how to pick them and where to walk so as not to destroy anything and off we went!
We were all encouraged to taste the kale and after having picked it my son was all too happy to agree. I fully expected him to say it was horrible and spit it out, but to my surprise he promptly announced that it’s now his favourite food in the world! I’m not entirely convinced that’s going to last, but if ever there was an advert for kids having the opportunity to pick their own produce, that has to be it!
From the outdoor fields we hop aboard the tractors again and move onto the indoor greenhouses, which, contrary to the greenhouses I’m familiar with, they don’t keep things warm, they are in fact specially air conditioned to keep things cool in the harsh UAE climate. It’s actually really interesting stuff, but you probably need to hear it first hand to appreciate the science!
After a wander through the greenhouse that’s it for the tour, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour in total, and we find ourselves back where we started, and led into the restaurant. Yes, they’ve really thought of everything!
Located inside one of its greenhouses, the restaurant menu includes a farm fresh ingredient based breakfast as well as a mostly vegetable based menu of salads and fresh juices. There’s also a selection of pizzas and cakes. As you might expect it’s fairly basic but comfortable enough and it has everything you need in a restaurant, and the staff were pretty friendly too. There’s certainly a decent amount of choice and there’s no arguing that the food’s not fresh!
At the main entrance/exit there’s of course also a farm shop where you can pick up an array of beautiful, fresh and organic fruit and vegetables, and mostly fairly reasonably priced.
It was a long way to drive for us but it was well worth it as there’s enough to keep kids entertained for the day, especially if you go on one of their special open days when they have arts and crafts or other activities going on also. Outside of the tour, my son spent most of his time on the giant play tractor, happily playing with the other kids. I had to drag him away in the end, he really didn’t want to leave!
Interestingly, although supermarket trips with this four year old are rarely a fun excursion, he seemed only too happy to play ‘shop’ on our way out and pick up a few more bits of veg to go with our onions and kale from the tour, and even more interesting still, he’s eaten every bit of veg I’ve given him since – asking ‘are these the ones we picked from the farm?’ each time. Well, if that’s the reaction a day on the farm has, we’ll have to do it more often!
Find out more about Emirates Bio Farm on their website, but also check them out on facebook and instagram for details on their events and open days.