Tenom farmstay

Tenom Farmstay, healthier food and planet with Integrated Farming

Some city kids are very afraid of chicken though they eat a lot of KFC. “Apple” is probably the first English word pupils learn but they have never seen an apple tree. Though our young generation is no longer required to get their hands dirty in the farm today, we must let them understand how agriculture works, as it’s the most important knowledge for survival of mankind. We can’t improve things that we don’t know.

house of Tenom farmstay
Pic: Tenom farmstay with pineapples in front

Run by Tham’s brothers in Sapong, Tenom Farmstay is about 12 Kilometres away from Tenom town (Ladang Batu 10, Jalan Kemabong) of Sabah interior (see Location Map). It’s a 35-acre real farm that practices organic farming and open for people who want to experience authentic farm life. Besides, they also bring their guests to volunteer in local community projects and interact with the local people.

Neem tree
Pic: Neem tree outside the house. It is a natural mosquito repellent.

The Plantation

Different from other farms, Tenom Farmstay is an integrated farming with the concept of diversifying the crops / livestock and making them to complement one another. For example, the manure from animals can be recycled as fertilizer for the crops. The end result is the creation of multiple recurring income streams and more sustainable organic farming.

calamansi plantation
Pic: lime orchard produces 200 Kg of fruit monthly

Tour package to climb Mount Kinabalu

The owner, Tham Yau Siong took us to tour around his farm, which is thriving with pineapples, tapioca, calamansi, banana and other crops. He supplies fruits and vegetables to market as far as Kota Kinabalu city and also gives some to his friends. (Note: many mosquitoes in orchard, do bring insect repellent)

Calamondin fruit / Limau Kasturi
Pic: Calamondin fruit (Limau Kasturi in Malay language)

Calamondin fruit is in good demand because its sweet and sour juice (locally known as Kik Cai Ping) is the favorite drink of Sabahans.

aroid plant
Pic: Aroid plant

What surprised me was – I found corpses flowers in his plantation. This flower (a.k.a. Samurai Flower) is a close relative to titan arum in Sumatra, a flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world. According to Alim from Sabah Parks. it is Amorphophallus lambii, a plant under the family Araceae. There are 5 species of such flower in Borneo. FYI, Amorphophallus means “misshapen penis” in Greek.

stem of Amorphophallus lambii
Pic: beautiful stem of Amorphophallus lambii

Samurai Flower takes many years to bloom and I was not in time for its flowering. Anyway, it is still worth taking a close look. Its trunk is actually part of its leaf structure. If you squeeze its soft stem, you can feel layers of leaves under its skin, what a peculiar plant. I never expect to see such natural wonder in a farm and there are 6 of them! Tham said someone told him that he could charge people entrance fee to see this flower.

jungle on the slope
We kept on walking and enter a mini “forest” on a slope. Tham keeps slope area of his farmland forested, for conservation and as a buffer zone to prevent soil erosion. Sometimes wildlife such as mouse deer and eagle forages here.

giant softwood tree
Pic: this giant tree is the highlight of this forest. It’s a softwood that called “包皮青” in Chinese (literally translated as Wrapped Green Skin). Please tell me if you know its identity.

big tree in Tenom
This tree looks like a long-necked Sauropod dinosaur from a close distance. There are a few other beautiful tall trees too and Tham decides not to cut them down.

forest and plantation
Pic: stand of 5-acre forest in the plantation

Shortly we came to an open space and walked among large area of banana and Sabah vege (Sayur Manis in Malay language) plantation, and also passed by a lush grassland, which is the food stock for his goats. Probably Tenom was used to be the floodplain of Padas River, so the soil is fertile, making Tenom one of the most important agricultural area in Sabah. Both lowland and highland crops seem to grow well in Tenom.

grasses for goats
Pic: 7 acres of grasses for goat farming

Tenom is also famous for its pomelo, avocado and coffee. Unlike greedy farmers who always aim to maximize profit by using a lot of chemical fertilizers, Tham uses goat dung from his farm instead, it is more organic and save him 70% of money spent on fertilizer.

tall papaya tree
Pic: a super-tall papaya tree in the farm

He prioritizes the well-being of the environment and consumers over the money, which makes his integrated farm more sustainable. This reminds me of the 3P model (People, Planet and Profit). Tham proves that winning for People-Planet-Profit is attainable with mixed farming.

banana plantation

“Nothing is illegal if a hundred businessmen decide to do it.” Well what’ll go wrong if people are obsessed with money? Just look at the recent cases like the use of gutter oil and plasticizing agent in our food and drink. Feed your chicken with unwashed vegetables and they will turn blind in weeks. When fruit juice is not real juice, fat is not real fat (trans fat), food issues become a world crisis. We have been putting highly-processed or harmful food into our mouth. How many “real” food are there in the market? I think “Food Education” is more important than Sex Education now. Consumer is the key force to drive the change. We are no longer afford to say, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” It’s time to question how our food is made.

open view of Tenom
Pic: a high ground area with nice view of the farm, forest and mountain. A chalet will be built here.

Tenom farmland
Besides 8 acres of orchard and vegetable farm that provides fresh banana, Sabah Vege (Sayur Manis), pineapple, durian, mangosteen and various other crops, Tham also owns a 16-acre oil palm plantation.

oil palm
These oil palm is mainly nourished by goat dung from Tham’s farm, which cut down the need for chemical fertilizer significantly. Moreover, he keeps a long vegetation zone between the river and his plantation, to prevent fertilizer causing pollution to the river. As a matter of fact, oil palm can be environmentally friendly if planted correctly.

big pumpkin
Pic: Brian (Tham’s nephew) holding a big pumpkin from the farm

Tham says it is very satisfying if you cultivate your crops with heart, and everyone can enjoy your healthy food worry free. Looking at his happy face, I have no doubt he is a good man rich in economic and inner wealth. I know some farmers who don’t dare to eat their own crop due to heavy use of pesticides. I wouldn’t sleep well if I were them.

Guyabano tree
Pic: Tham Yau Kong (left) shows us the formula to cure cancer with the leaves and fruit of Guyabano.

Then we met his brother, Tham Yau Kong in the orchard, he is a no-nonsense but a very friendly and kind man. He travels to a lot more places in Sabah than I do. He has climbed Mt. Tambuyukon numerous times as if it’s in his backyard. He still works in tourism industry and comes back to this farm regularly.

Goat Farm

Next we checked out the fertilizer factory, no.. I meant the goat farm. You might think that Tham Yau Siong is a farmer since the beginning. Nope. He was a financial controller. When economy turned bad in late 90s, he returned to Tenom and started his farm in 2004. He saw the potential of goat farming. With 0 experience, he ventured into goat rearing in 2005 after he took a 1-week course conducted by Veterinary Department.

goat farm
He started with 6 goats and now he has about 300 goats in his farm and even won the Successful Breeder Award (Sabah) in 2010. Most important of all, he finds meaning in his new business and really love his job. His success story is an inspiration to those who only want to stay in comfort zone.

Mulberry leaves
Pic: Tham shares his secret recipe on goat’s diet. The mulberry leaves in the photo is a natural multi-vitamin for goat. Tham also feeds his goats with Jackfruit leaves that can de-worm and high-fibre oil palm leaves that keep their guts healthy. This eliminates the needs for chemical and synthetic nutrients injection.

cuddling a baby goat
In contrast to what I imagine, his goat feedlots are clean, well-ventilated and well-lit. It doesn’t smell bad at all. Hundred of goats started bleating like baby when they saw us approaching, so cute.

smiling goats
The goats are so adorable and look like smiling. In Sabah, about 85% of the lamb is imported (as frozen meat from Australia and New Zealand), so it is demand over supply hence a huge market. Tham stressed, “Everyone needs food and world population is growing, so food supply is getting scarce and becoming more and more expensive, so you won’t go wrong producing food.”

There are 3 types of goats in his farm, namely, Ferrel and Boar goats, and 3rd kind is a cross-breed of these two Australian breeds. It takes about 6 months for the goat to grow to the marketable size of 25 Kg. Each goat can be sold for RM1,000 in Brunei, quite a lucrative business as every goat costs less than RM300 to raise. The advantage of Sabah is that our livestock has no foot and mouth disease problem, so exporting them to other countries is easy.

healthy goat
Pic: Tham shows us how a healthy goat looks like. This goat seems pleased.

goat testicles
Male goat can mate 3 times in a minute. Though “fast” it is impressive. Most guys believe mutton is good for men. I even made fun of its big “sperm tank” in one of my blog lol.

playful goat
Pic: the goat is so happy and playful, as if it sees its father.

goat licking my pant
Pic: a goat tried to eat my pant. Want to keep a goat as pet? Think twice.

Goat eats anything. “You better rear them behind the fence. If you let them wander around, they will eat plastic, cloth, rubbish and everything. Their meat will smell bad,” Tham smiled and said.

goat dung fertilizer
Pic: the by-product of goat farm, organic fertilizer

His goats produces 1,000 bags of goat dung per month. Each sack weighs 30 Kg, and Tham sells 200 bags for RM20 each every month, generating a side income of RM4,000. He uses the rest of the goat dung for his farm, saving him a ton of money. FYI, chemical fertilizer costs RM5 per 400g, which is far more pricey.


After a long walk, we were hungry and Tham prepared a yummy Kampung (village) lunch for us. We had some rice, pumpkin, Sabah vege and chicken. Somehow I felt the food tasted better when I knew that they were fresh from the farm.

organic meals from farm

The soy sauce chicken meat tastes really delicious. I think it’s the famous Maize Chicken of Tenom, another high-quality product by Tenom farmer. The chicken is fed with corn instead of cheap pellets, so its skin appears yellowish and the meat is sweet, springy and less fatty.

Tenom chicken meat
Pic: soy sauce chicken

Tenom Farmstay welcomes anyone who wants to experience farm life to stay there. They have been receiving many student groups, especially from UK. The youngsters will be kept busy doing real works. Instead of being a braggart in social media, they gain more pride by doing volunteer work to help the local community.

living room of Tenom farmstay
The farmstay has 6 rooms with fan and bunk beds, and able to host up to 30 people. The fee is RM60 per night (≈US$18.50) (normally it is a 2-Day-1-Night package). Tham joked, “the large quantity of fruits they can eat here is already worth more than that.”

room and beds in Tenom farmstay
Pic: the room of the farmstay

toilet and bathroom at Tenom farmstay
Pic: toilet and bathroom

BBQ area
Pic: BBQ area

If you are interested in Farmstay, you may contact TYK Adventure Tours for more info:
Name: Padas Farmstay or Tenom Agro Paradise Farmstay
Website: www.tykadventuretours.com
Address (office): Block E, Lot 38, 2nd Floor, Damai Plaza IV, Luyang, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: (6088) 232821
E-mail: thamyaukong@gmail.com / b.oswanda@gmail.com

Below is the leaflet of the farmstay:

brochure of Padas Farmstay, Tenom
Brochure of Padas Farmstay, Tenom (Updated: Oct 2017)

To see more photos of Tenom Farmstay, you may browse my photo album.

Photos taken in Tenom, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

2 thoughts on “Tenom Farmstay, healthier food and planet with Integrated Farming

  1. Truly inspiring. If my city life suddenly bored me to the brink, I’d go back to kampung life and do farming just like this one. It’s far more relaxing than having to go thru the hectic life in the city on a daily basis 🙂

    1. I feel the same too Jipp. Actually many developed countries also have programs for city people to spend their weekends farming in countryside. 🙂

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