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Ground Up Initiative

City, Garden Stories

Garden Stories: Natural Farmer & Permaculturist Mr Tang Hung Bun


Meet Mr Tang Hung Bun, a joyful, down-to-earth and all-round lovely gentleman. An avid nature lover and experienced permaculturist, Mr Tang is a former physics teacher, and has co-authored a book titled “A photographic guide to the dragonflies of Singapore“. He has since retired from teaching to focus on his passion of farming. He now volunteers with Farmily, a social enterprise which works with senior citizens through farming naturally-grown, pesticide- and chemical-free produce, it is also the farming arm of non-profit group, Ground-Up Initiative (GUI).

I first learned of Mr Tang through his blog, where he shared a soul-crushing video of his established permaculture food forest destroyed by heavy machinery. His landlord decided to lease the land that he rented to a developer, and what he had created in almost two years was demolished in three days. I would later hear my urban farmer friend, Ong Chun Yeow, mention Mr Tang in many of our conversations, and it took me quite a while to make the connection that he was that same person.

I had the immense fortune of meeting him during my visit to Kampung Kampus, and he gave me an impromptu tour of a permaculture garden that he and other volunteers had been working on since mid-January this year, after a few of them discovered a small, temporarily unused plot on the premises. Here is a video of that plot before and after Mr Tang and other Farmily volunteers worked on it. Incredible and inspiring. One of the remarkable things about this garden is that they do not water it.

As you can see from the video, he grows wintermelon, eggplants, roselle, taro, chilli, currant tomatoes, okra, winged beans and bittergourds. Some of these edible plants are intercropped with marigolds, a wonderful companion plant, and the garden features several pigeon pea plants, a shrub favoured by permaculturists for its nitrogen fixing qualities and as “chop and drop” material, there is also a neem tree, which is also a nitrogen fixer, and has many medicinal properties, its small branches can be used as a natural toothbrush.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Mr Tang. Please read on to find out more about him and his interesting perspectives!

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Welcome to Kampung Kampus!


It’s been at least two years since I last popped by Ground-Up Initiative‘s HQ – Kampung Kampus, situated at the location formally known as Bottle Tree Park, it was certainly a long overdue visit. It was so good to see Kampung Chief, Tay Lai Hock, again and I was so blown away by the changes from my last visit.

Ground-Up Initiative has come a long way since they started out in 2008. From having a small space beside a wheatgrass farming operation (I believe the owner generously let them use the space), they are now on 26,000 square metres, and in the midst of building a learning campus which teaches urban farming, craftsmanship and other skills, have a large volunteer base and many community-based programmes that encourage leadership development, experiential learning and community bonding.

They also have an incredible woodworking space, and a few productive vegetable gardens, one of them, a permaculture food garden. They supply supermarket chain, Yes Natural, and you can also buy their produce at a fruit and vegetable stand on the premises.


When Kampung Kampus is completed, it will look like this. Intrigued? Read on…


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Where you can grow your own food in Singapore

With Singapore’s space constraints, green-fingered apartment dwellers and landed property owners aren’t always able to carve out enough space to grow all the herbs, flowers and food that they desire. As people become more conscious about Singapore’s food security, the healing nature of plants, and the connection between food and health, an increasing number are making a choice to move away from food which has been chemically fertilised, and the interest in growing one’s own food is on the rise.

My friend and urban farmer, Bjorn Low from Edible Gardens adopts a plot of land at Green Valley Farms, a 2.5 hectare area in Sembawang that has also been adopted by some members of the public. I went to visit Bjorn’s plot last week, and also have a look at what the community has been growing. I was so impressed.


There is a wide variety of plants being grown here by people for a variety of reasons. I saw melons and pumpkin plants, and even cauliflower, which is quite incredible since it prefers cool weather and is not fond of humidity. Each plot is separated with netting, and some are not as easy to peer into, so I peeked through the gap in the gate to get a better look.

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This plot below uses reclaimed wooden bases from the older style of pick-ups, I was told. A great example of upcycling! I also heard from Bjorn that all farmers have been asked to farm organically, which is wonderful, because it is a considerate act, not just for the soil and one’s neighbour’s soil, but it also avoids pollution of ground water and waterways. All plot adopters also have to be responsible for their water usage, and usually have a well on their plot, which is naturally filled when it rains.

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If you are interested in adopting a plot, check out their website. While you are there, you may also be interested in purchasing local and organic vegetables.

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For those who do not have any experience of farming, and live in the North-eastern part of Singapore, Community Farmsquare might be a better option. Located in Hougang, this pilot project involves the adoption of a 1m x 1m planter box, at a cost of $50 a month over 6 months, and the space will be tended to by residents living nearby. The founder, Soh Ju Hu is looking for 100 early adopters, and he hopes that it can be launched in early 2014. See below for what this farmsquare looks like.


For more information, download this brochure, or get in touch with Ju Hu at If you are keen, you can sign up here.

And if you are not ready to commit to a farming plot, why not get your hands dirty at Ground Up Initiative‘s Sustainable Living Centre in Bottle Tree Park? Visitors are welcome each weekend, for more information, visit them on their Facebook fan page.


Happy farming!!

Community Farmsquare images courtesy of Soh Ju Hu