I enjoy my catch-ups with Suekay, sometimes I pop by her Bishan residence to talk about collaborations, where the garden offers a wonderful backdrop to our discussions. She lives with her in-laws, who have created a lush, pretty garden with the help of a gardener. It has quite a neat, unified, formal appearance, with mainly ornamental plants. There are plans to introduce edible plants in the near future, which is exciting to hear. As you’ll see, I couldn’t resist getting a little snap happy on the garden… It’s such a beautiful, relaxing space, I feel like I’m visiting a resort each time I go there.
I’ve known Suekay for a while now and I love her warm personality and down-to-earth approach to everything she does. She’s very driven with her online gardening supplies business, Urban Agriculture, which retails a range of gardening products including seeds, microgreen kits, fertiliser and soil enhancements. We have a working arrangement where I list seeds and worm tea on her website. On top of running Urban Agriculture, she looks after NONG (by Edible Garden City)’s retail operations.
She made a transition from the financial sector to go full-time into promoting urban farming, a profession that she finds a lot more joy and meaning in. Here she shares her motivation on making a career switch, and her journey so far. If you find Suekay familiar, you might have seen her in a previous post on her beekeeper colleague, Thomas Lim.
1. You used to be in FOREX trading, how did you come to realise that you wanted to become an urban farmer, and start your online gardening supplies business, Urban Agriculture?
During the FOREX corporate life everyone of us under tremendous stress and I started feeling body aches with poor health conditions at my late 20s. A large portion of my income had gone for massage packages; chiropractors fees; organic food; gym membership fees; etc in order to make myself feels good and healthy. That’s why I started feeling for a change – a lifestyle change.
In recent years, I have also been traveling with my husband to Australia and US where I started to realise my love towards an organic, sustainable farm life and I hope to start growing my own produce for my family in Singapore. However, just like most people – I had no green thumb and I did not know HOW. A lot of questions were spinning in my head, and with thousands of answers appearing on the Google search engine, I couldn’t even begin to figure out what was more relevant to me. It has taken ages for me to research before I set up my company Urban Agriculture Pte Ltd in October 2013, after I leaving my job to finally pursue my interest in edible gardening.
2. Could you tell me a bit about your vision for Urban Agriculture, and also, are you seeing an increase when it comes to interest in gardening and urban farming, based on the sales you are experiencing?
Urban Agriculture was set up with a vision to help urban dwellers start their own edible gardening at home from reliable sources that have been used and tested locally.
Urban Agriculture has participated in couple of pop-up events in 2014, and through different events we see an increasing number of people were coming to us for edible garden supplies. We are optimistic that more and more people will be pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle in Singapore.
After I set up my own company online, I got to know Bjorn through a common friend, Alicia Owyong, in late 2013 and started volunteering with Edible Garden City at one of their hotel projects. When I first met the team, I was surprised that most of them are in their 20s and 30s, whereby I was expecting to meet a bunch of older folks. The Edible Garden City crew is extremely nice and willing to share their knowledge. Not only have I learnt a lot about edible gardening through hands-on experience, I have also been given the opportunity to become their retail partner for Edible Garden Materials at NONG POP UP from January to March 2014.
In August 2014, I was invited by the founders of Edible Garden City to join the team to build up their retail segment under the brand NONG.
4. Do you have any favourite plants, what do you enjoy growing most?
Well, I am still learning and experiment with more plants types. Next would be Lacinato Kale, which can be eaten in salads or juiced in smoothies.
My favourite plants so far are Basils and Mints as they are super easy to grow and I use them very often for my drinks and in cooking. Other than that, it would be my microgreens, which include Radish, Sunflower, Snow Pea plants.
I hope that Singapore as a garden city will slowly become an edible garden city, with all urban dwellers growing their own herbs or vegetables at home.
6. Are there any plans and projects for you in the pipeline?
Urban Agriculture has revamped its website and was relaunched in August 2014, we aim to be an online market place that supplies edible gardening essentials from both local and international brands. We are currently in talks with multiple suppliers and hopefully we will be carrying more products as soon as the first quarter of 2015 to provide more options for our savvy local “farmers”.
7. Do you have any advice for people who wish to start a career in the agriculture sector?
Join the fun and make a difference!
Thank you, Suekay!
Big thanks also to Suekay’s in-laws for letting me photograph your garden!