Last week, I went with my beloved friend Bhavani Prakash to visit Derrick Ng at his spray-free farm space in Neo Tiew. He’s an inspiring, enterprising young man with a vegetable farming business and a fish soup stall, and has an impressive corridor farm at home. He’s determined to improve Singapore’s food security, and has a strong desire to bring healthier, pesticide-free food to Singaporeans. He is one of a collective group of people who have adopted farm plots on this property.
Derrick explained to us that he uses a closed loop system to ensure no waste is created in the process of growing vegetables and fish. The vegetables that don’t make to it the market or his fish soup stall, Wang Yuan Fish Soup, end up as compost. The fish he farms is for the purpose of making fish emulsion, an effective fertiliser for plants.
After showing us around his three greenhouses, he was kind enough to give us some freshly harvested Purple Chye Sim to take home. I cooked it that evening in a soup, and it was very delicious. During our time with Derrick, he dispensed lots of growing tips related to vegetables and fruit trees. He also shared that he favours permaculture as a farming practice, and he uses resources that are readily available to him, and makes the best of what he has.
I can’t emphasise enough, the importance of knowing your farmer, where possible, because there’s an assurance that the food you’re consuming is safe. Also, it’s been said that eating locally and seasonally is healthier for us because we follow the rhythms of nature.
Here are photos of Derrick’s farming plots, and an interview where he shares details of his journey so far.
Singapore has a wonderful countryside and huge potential in scaling up its vegetable production in the city state. Here are some videos featuring farmers from different industries, including new generation farmers and urban farmers, and these clips provide a quick snapshot of Singapore’s agricultural landscape.
In a month’s time, the Kranji Countryside Association will hold Singapore’s first farmers’ market featuring locally grown and made products. I’ll be there, and I hope you’ll join me too! More details will be posted on the Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market Facebook page as the dates draw near. Please ‘like’ the page and support local produce! And remember to bring your own bags! See you there!
For my birthday last month, I was pleasantly surprised with a delivery of one of SuperNature‘s Farm Boxes, kindly sent by Blackberry Singapore. I hear from them time to time, and occasionally they give me phones to test out. While I don’t celebrate my birthday anymore, I found this to be so thoughtful. Sometime back, I remarked on this blog that I had not yet tried SuperNature’s produce, finally this day has come.
Here’s what was included in the Farm Box. I think this was the Baby Farm Box.
It contained my favourite fruits and vegetables, ones that I grow in Australia or buy regularly, and they all looked very fresh. The first vegetables I tucked into were the leeks, carrots and spinach. They tasted so good, and the leeks in particular, were the best that I have ever had. The mangoes were lovely, and the apples weren’t too bad.
I gave the pumpkin, zucchinis and sweet potatoes to my parents. I got to try the sweet potatoes in my mom’s mystic purple porridge though, and it was very nice. The rainbow chard, broccoli and cauliflower were tasty. The potatoes are comparable to the ones available regionally.
What I love about this Farm Box is the quality and selection of fruits and vegetables. This is a box for two, and it took me two weeks or so to finish it. Price-wise, it costs $70, and while it seems pricey, expect to pay thereabouts when buying organic produce from the US and Australia. Of course, buying produce from those locations also mean a higher carbon footprint.
I usually advocate buying locally, if not, regionally. However, if you would like to give this a try, please do, and let me know what you think! Do you have a favourite farm that you buy from?
A familiar haunt for Singaporeans, Pulau Ubin is a green idyllic space a hop and a skip from the mainland. I was there a few weeks ago with my artist/curator friend, Jacquelyn Soo, to view its vegetable, herb and spice garden and other nature spaces as inspiration for our upcoming joint exhibition project for Sum > Parts: When Artists Meet the Public.
There’s a carefree vibe on the island, and the sensible pace of life there made time seem slower, giving us time to appreciate each moment we had. There are more bicycles than cars and people, and the dogs here are so friendly and seem so happy, they look like they are smiling.
There’s greenery everywhere, and even on the roof of boats.
The island recently began test bedding a microgrid of solar panels and generators using biofuel, meaning lower and cleaner emissions. Solar panels can be seen on a few buildings.
We leased a couple of bicycles from the bicycle kiosk and got on our way. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day.
Our first stop was the Artists’ Village rental kampung (or village) house. We put down some of our non essentials to take the weight off our backs.
It’s a cool space with its own veggie garden and a jackfruit tree. This is my first time inside a kampung house, and it was good to see and experience how people used to live in Singapore. It’s very basic, and all we need, really. Although it could do with some mosquito nets on the windows, as mosquitoes were feasting on us inside the house.
Fortunately, there was mosquito repellent on the dining table – Wormwood Essence! This worked pretty well, I didn’t get bitten on the areas that I had applied it to. I’d missed some spots like my lower shoulder and upper leg, and got bitten there. Incidentally, The Artist’s Village have Wormwood growing in their garden. I have a lot growing in my Singapore garden too, but we don’t do much with it. Through our research, we found that we can steep its leaves in apple cider vinegar using a 1:1 ratio, and upon straining, it can be used as a bug repellent. I’m now keen to give this a try.
Cute birds’ nest near the front entrance.
We were soon back on our bicycles, hunting for wild plants, and doing some nature spotting and sticky-beaking. We found this. It’s a type of ground cover, and it looks like a mini Orchid, or a much whiter version of the Australian Violet. We also saw some Mimosa and Lalang, which we are hoping to feature as part of our art project.
We came across a relaxing cafe, and an incredible Lotus and Lily pond. We spent some time by the pond, admiring its flowers, and mainly feeling Lotus flower (and root) envy. I have a lotus plant in Australia which has not bloomed yet. Dan and I are hoping it will finally flower in Spring this year, now that it is around two years old.
Our last stop of exploration was the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden, which is part of the Sensory Trail, a 1.5km track developed for the visually impaired, as a means for them to experience Pulau Ubin using smell, sound, taste and touch.
The entrance of the garden featured some Winged-Bean plants, which had attracted lots of red ants. The rest of the garden featured a mix of vegetables and herbs commonly used in Asian cuisine, and also medicinal plants, which many might not know about.
It was nice to see their veggie patch, where they are growing Ceylon Spinach, Soybean (edamame), Sweet Potatoes, Sawtooth Coriander, as well as some herbs.
I love their Aloe Vera patch. I am pretty envious of the whole space, really.
My Singapore garden is full of Elephant’s Foot, which I had regarded as a weed. but no longer now. I found out that it can can be used to treat indigestion, swollen legs, and a loss of appetite.
A little fella on the fence.
Outside the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden was a fruit orchard. Trees included Musa Bananas, Starfruit and and Jackfruit.
There was more to see, but by this point I felt that it was getting late and had to begin heading back to the mainland, although Jacquelyn was happy to just be. I was also getting pretty tired, admittedly, it’s been awhile since I did a bit of exercise. I will have to come back again soon, to see the mangroves and more.
As we were cycling, Jacquelyn spotted a hornbill. We had to stop and watch. It’s too beautiful not to. Can you spot it in the tree?
Before we left, we enjoyed some chilled coconuts at the coffee shop. After riding past so many coconut trees along the way, I had to have one. We also paid a visit to the talking parrot in the convenience store. The snacks that they sold and the way it displayed its wares was a blast from the past for me. It reminded me of when I was in secondary school.
If you haven’t visited in a while, please do! Take a break from city life, and bring your friends and/or family over for a day trip, or even camping (or glamping). Don’t forget your hat(s), sunscreen, and most of all, mosquito repellent! For those who haven’t yet been, it costs $2.50 per person each way, and the boat departs from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each boat needs 12 to travel, so expect a slight wait each way.
See if you can spot this bicycle while you are there!