A Day in the Life lets you take on the role of a UAE resident to enjoy a typical 24-hour work and home life.
Marie Anne de Haan’s flowers look good enough to eat — and if you’re a fan of Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ve probably got them.
Ms De Haan, 35, left her corporate job in 2018 to grow flowers in the Dubai desert, and now supplies dozens of the UAE’s best restaurants with up to 180,000 edible flowers every month.
The origin of one’s own sustainable agricultural products can be tasted at Moonrise, Ossiano, Tresind Studio, Hakkasan, Jaleo, Boca, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and others.
here, the National She joins Mrs. de Haan on a typical day on the farm, picking flowers and hydroponically growing with thousands of predatory wasps.
6am: Clearing the cobwebs
Her son Leo wakes Ms. de Haan every day to eat breakfast, and then she takes her two rescue dogs and horse for a quick walk through the oasis village.
“I take my two desert dogs, Tokyo and Alma, and my horse, Peanut, for a walk every morning,” she says. “I enjoy being surrounded by nature, which is the main reason I became a farmer.
“When I started in 2018, I had no experience at all, but I learned everything as I went.
“I quit my job as an account manager at a business marketing company and threw caution to the wind.”
Ms De Haan was inspired to grow fresh food shortly after moving to Dubai from the Netherlands in 2014 when she noticed a lot of produce being imported.
She taught herself sustainable growing techniques including hydroponics, which involves growing plants without soil using solutions that require up to 10 times less water than traditional methods.
“I had no agricultural experience at all, but I decided to pursue it,” says Ms. de Haan.
“Today we have 13 employees at Mary Anne’s Fresh Produce, and on a good month we sell about 6,000 boxes each containing up to 30 flowers to city restaurants.”
8:30 a.m.: Life is better on the farm
Ms de Haan arrives at the farm off the Dubai-Al Ain Road between 8.30am and 10am most days to attend a team meeting and consider new orders from the likes of two Michelin-starred Studio Tresind.
“It’s so wonderful to work with such amazing chefs, and the whole team is so proud to be involved,” she says. “They’re also really great people, and it’s amazing to be able to contribute to their success in a small way.”
During the quieter summer months, Ms. de Haan and her team focus on sustainability projects including plant-based packaging and waste management.
“Sustainability is at the core of everything we do, and we are always looking for ways to make a difference,” she says. “I am currently trying to develop recyclable packaging while ensuring the shelf life of the flowers.”
2 pm: Making the most beautiful paintings in Dubai
After a light lunch, Ms. de Haan meets with chefs and restaurateurs in their kitchens or on the farm itself.
“Sometimes, they’re looking for something with a certain aesthetic, and other times, they’re aiming for a certain flavor,” she says. “We grow marigolds, nasturtiums and marigolds, but the most popular flower is the hybrid viola because it is so versatile and the flavors are not too strong.
“All the flowers are hand-picked, and although I don’t do many of them myself these days, I love walking around the farm and taking in all the beautiful scents and colors.”
To prevent insects and pests from destroying crops, Ms. de Haan imports 200 predatory wasps every month from the Netherlands in the hope that they will eventually begin nesting and breeding.
“It’s a nice way to reduce pesticides,” she says. “I believe in using nature positively rather than trying to fight it.”
5.30pm: Taste the finished product
Mrs. de Haan returns home in the late afternoon and spends time with Leo, before heading out to see her flowers in action.
“Sometimes we go out to try dishes. We recently went to Chez Wam and it was really great. “It’s really great to see how the chefs use flavors in unexpected ways and I’ll always take some photos to share with the team.
“The chefs bring everything to life, and it’s so amazing to see everything come together on the plate.”
Updated: September 12, 2023 at 2:30 AM