20 Feb 2017
Between Saida and Jezzine, 60km from Beirut, Lebanon
Organic Food and Agriculture

The journey has been a long one and not without its share of challenges, but Yasmina and Jean-Pierre Zahar’s persistence and constant optimism has reaped results in the last four years.

Bassatin Baanoub farm, around 60km away from Beirut city is a great example of their very successful effort, a land they transformed into a self sufficient organic farm. It is very difficult to believe that this land was once uncultivable when one sees the lush green vegetation surrounding the ancient olive trees.

It was evident that this buried olive grove nestled in a forest needed a new direction. That’s why the couple took up the challenge to transform a hill of 1,500,000 square meters of abandoned land into a lush green farm producing extra virgin olive oil, wild thyme, sumac, honey, wild foraged veggies in winter and most of the basic veggies & fruits in summerhoney.

The peculiarity of the farm is its history; it is a land that comes with an ancient history; that keeps uncovering… some of the olive trees found there are over 2000 years of age along with an ottoman water mill dating back to 1860, which will raise awareness of the importance of the other surrounding lands history, geology, flora and fauna.

“We want to do something that is pure. It’s about protecting and spreading these ideas”

Can ancient farms be the key to a healthy future? | The Switchers

It was a great risk when Yasmina and Jean-Pierre, an architect and a comercials producer, thought of developing this land, they both had no experience in farming and agriculture, but they were determined to do something about it and that is how they gradually came up with the plan: first, protect Basatin Baanoub’s biodiversity and work to increase it. Then, create a touristic infrastructure based around the river, including an on-site restaurant.

Finally, in addition to growing fruits and vegetables, keeping bees, goats and sheep, and maintaining the olive grove, the couple wants to renovate the existing constructions, establish a renewable energy powered infrastructure, and construct guestrooms, in the three coming years, to host tourists for the day or the night.

Yasmina and Jean-Pierre hope as well to collaborate with Lebanese universities, inviting a study of the landscape’s agronomy and history can possibly offer researchers a unique opportunity to provide a data collection and a research platform on biodiversity, agriculture, geology and rural heritage.

Bassatin Baanoub farm is now aiming to become one of the largest organic farms in the area producing fruits, vegetables and grains with the greatest transparency, also to influence the nearby landowners to do to the same.

Through their persistent efforts, Yasmina and Jean-Pierre did not only transform the surrounding area, but also reestablished this farm’s historical pivotal role in the local economy by intertwining tourism and agriculture.

Bassatin Baanoub Organic Food and Agriculture
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