Processing Coconut oil

Next step towards my self-sufficiency and sustainable journey is of course, processing my farm produce. The first in line is –

My farm grown Coconuts to Cold-pressed (Mara-chekku, wood-pressed) Coconut Oil.

Hurray!!!

I guess it can’t get any more organic than that and hence I am super excited about it.

Let me walk you through the process we underwent:

  • Firstly, hired a tree-climber (for short of a proper word) to pluck all the mature coconuts from our 25 odd coconut trees.
  • Then hired a few extra helping hands to break the coconuts and put it out for drying.
  • Gave instructions to my ladies to make sure they keep the covered with a net during the evening times and then open them out in the mornings
  • After a couple of days, employing another round of helpers to chuck out the dried coconut meat out of the shells
  • Allowed them to dry for about a week till the coconuts could be snapped and broken
  • Collected in big sacks and transported to the oil mill
  • We wait at the oil mill and get the oil processed and carefully transport the big stainless steel drum full of oil back home.
  • Let the oil drum sit for two days undisturbed to allow the sediments to settle
  • After two days pour out the clear golden oil into jars for storage

 

Drying coconuts – image courtesy – Author’s own
Dried coconuts (Copra) – image courtesy – author’s own
Oil Mill – image courtesy – Author’s own
Extraction of oil – Image Courtesy – Author’s own
Coconut oil – After decantation – Image courtesy – Author’s own
Pure Gold – Coconut oil – Image courtesy – Author’s own

From drying the coconuts hygienically to surviving a sudden rain scare, running to the farm for more than 3 days in the last week to check on the drying process, collecting the dried coconuts (copra), transporting to the city from my farm and finally finding an oil mill which has a wood-press and more importantly separate machines for different oil seeds for oil extraction to ensure the taste and smell remain intact. Phew!

A huge learning experience!

Good news was my friends in the neighbourhood can now get some farm fresh organic coconut oil that they had been asking me for quite some time now.
I sent my sincere apologies to my out-of-town friends who really wished to buy some.

As this was my maiden attempt, I am yet to understand the transport logistics. Moreover, my philosophy has always been about buying local as much as possible to support local communities and also avoid unnecessary transportation in the process. I am sure they’ll understand.

At the oil mill (my first experience being there of course) I was curiously milling around the whole place asking hundred questions to the workers there. I was so glad they happily obliged to answer my varied queries. Nice people…I had a good time chatting with them.

Finally delivered to my select few customers who are actually my friends and now for my reflections on this whole experience:

*NEWS FLASH*

Turns out we have actually incurred more loss than any profit in the whole process. Yes, you better believe it! Hahahaha…(nervous laughter)

So why am I laughing? At my own naivety, of course. Well, to think, for a minute there, I had this audacious thought this would help us make a meagre income, enough to at the very least cover the labour cost it took to make this happen? Yeah, well nope.

But, I am not discouraged at all because this a learning process. I am actually quite proud of myself that I dared to not only dream of this but achieved it too. So that’s enough for me as of now. I have learnt what goes on behind the scenes of this whole process and I am in a much better position and I learnt a lot from the mistakes I made. So that’s something.

I haven’t ever talked about the monetary aspect of farming here so while I am talking about profit and losses, let me also confess that I am yet to make any money out of my farming venture…

I started out with just one aim and that was to provide clean, nutritious, toxin-free food for our family. And that satisfaction seems enough for now. More than enough.

But farming also shouldn’t become a white elephant in the long run (Note to self & for others reading this). It can’t become something you are constantly pumping money into without anything much in return. If not profitable, it should definitely help create enough income to sustain and maintain the cost of running a farm at the least. It cannot become an expensive hobby. Just keeping things real here.

From a two income family, we became a one income family last year to essentially put more focus into our farm and towards achieving our sustainable goals. I am grateful for my husband’s income that’s taking care of our needs and we are not dependent on the farm for our livelihood.

Organic farming currently seems expensive to me (an inexperienced new farmer) but I have understood from veterans that it doesn’t have to be so. I might just get there some day but that day is not today.

With this step in our organic journey, we have successfully eliminated our need to buy oil from the stores. We are slowly trying to remove refined oil completely out of our pantry list. We always have a small quantity of refined oil (sunflower oil and rice bran oil) for deep frying purposes because kids don’t seem to take well to the strong aroma of peanut/sesame/coconut oils.

But we are trying to build their tolerance by transitioning slowly and steadily.

Hope to educate them so they make better choices for themselves.

Here’s to hoping!

And also yay to us!

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