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Garden Stories: Our Kampong Farm Rooftop Community Garden

On the top floor of a disused carpark space in Bedok, a group of 20 residents collectively grow, harvest, and cook for one another using produce from their rooftop community garden. Our Kampong Farm has taken a different approach to most community gardens, opting for the communal farm model – where everyone puts in their fair share of  work and enjoys the harvest together, rather than designating individual allotments. I felt inspired by what I saw, and could feel a sense of community spirit from this group of urban farmers.

This sprawling rooftop space is managed by 20 people, and currently not all of it is used for edible plants. Spanning around 15,000 square feet, only 10 per cent of the space is used to grow a wide variety of herbs, vegetables and fruits like caixin, kang kong, spinach, Japanese radish, lettuce, eggplant, tomato, pumpkin, bittergourd, watermelon, musk melon, okra, long beans, chilli, Thai basil, rosemary, perilla, pandan, aloe vera, oyster plant and papaya, among others. 

These urban farmers keep their expenses lean by taking what is normally considered waste from food vendors in the vicinity and using it as fertiliser. Given the number of plants here, store-bought fertiliser would not be cost-effective. In addition, they use a drip irrigation system for some of their plants, reducing water wastage and fertiliser run-off. Desmond Tan, who is part of the team, shared that okara, a by-product of making tofu, has proven to be a highly nutritious fertiliser, and dried banana peels have given their tomato plants a fantastic potassium boost. Food waste is certainly a resource that we don’t use enough of.

In this interview, Desmond tells us about the journey of Our Kampong Farm and lessons learnt along the way.

Garden Stories: Ong Chun Yeow, the Community Rooftop Farmer

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In Yishun, you will find one of only a handful of rooftop community gardens in Singapore, built atop a HDB car park. Ong Chun Yeow is one of several estate residents with a garden allotment, growing lots of leafy greens like purslane, swiss chard, and amaranth, herbs, galangal, as well as fruiting vegetables like bitter gourd, okra and tomatoes.

Opened in 2014, this rooftop garden features 30 garden allotments, which residents ballot for. The diversity of plants in this garden is incredible, I saw corn, broccoli, kale, and strawberry plants, a papaya tree, different varieties of eggplants, gourds, beans, herbs and spices. Through clever space stacking and bio-intensive growing methods, one can maximise their yield, however limited the space, as can be seen in this garden. I also noticed many ladybirds, a beneficial insect and wonderful pest control agent, always good to have them around!

I got to know Chun Yeow through my circle of environmentalist friends and we have been Facebook friends for years, but I don’t recall actually meeting him in person till this year. He is keen on heritage and environmental issues, desires to have a low-impact existence, and practices intentional living. He recently received his Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and is looking forward to more hands-on permaculture experiences locally and overseas. Whenever I ask him what he’s doing on the weekend, it seems like he’s usually involved in at least one urban farming-related event. As a lover of plants and nature, he’s also passionate about community building activities, such as those organised by Foodscape Collective.

Find out more about Chun Yeow’s journey in this interview, and check out the photos of this marvellous rooftop community garden!

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