So you want to be a locavore? We dig deeper into urban farming 101 to get you started with places to visit, and a full day’s menu to eat your way through.
Consider this: a simple salad might have clocked more miles than you can travel in a year. Avocados from the States, tomatoes from Japan, strawberries from South Korea, balsamic vinegar from Italy and milk from Australia–how far and how long have these ingredients travelled before they made it to your kitchen? Carbon footprint and freshness aside, another reason to eat local (or within a certain radius, say, up to Cameron Highlands) is an encouraging nod to our homegrown, hardworking farmers. However, farming in Singapore is not always smooth-sailing with expiring land leases, the need for cash and support, and resource scarcity.
6 reasons to go locavore
– Fruits and vegetables allowed to ripen fully on the vine or tree (versus being picked unripe) have a higher Vitamin C content, a 2000 Seoul National University study found.
*Currently only eight percent of veggies eaten are grown locally, while over 90 percent of food consumed here is imported.
MAN OF THE LAND
Uncle William, or William Ho, is a familiar face. The youngest son of Ho Seng Choon (a household name for eggs), he was “arrowed” by his siblings when former politician Dr. Seet Ai Mee asked for Lian Wah Hang Farm to be opened to the public for education in 1998. The business then moved to Farmart Centre after the avian flu scare. Now the passionate farmer leads tours, manages a quail farm and a retail/wholesale business.
On his farming life
“In Secondary school, dad literally gave me shit to start with. Convert it to something, he said. Initially I hated it–why not money, car, property? But I turned it into a lucrative business. One packet of ’black gold’ would net me $5–big money then. I moved on to planting limes, then beekeeping. There was no internet so I did my research in the library. I also learnt how to take care of animals, feed them; made deliveries to hotels and restaurants when learning how to do sales.”
On single-handedly leading farm tours
“It gets busiest after exams. Some mornings I get a cohort of 240 kids (three sessions consecutively).
6 reasons to go locavore – Fruits and vegetables allowed to ripen fully on the vine or tree (versus being picked unripe) have a higher Vitamin C content, a 2000 Seoul National University study found. – #supportlocal. Give back to our community; let the industry flourish for better harvests towards a self-sustaining future and a deeper appreciation of farming. – Tastier food. Vegetables plucked hours (or minutes) before you buy them; just-laid eggs which are still warm.
“Be natural and honest, share what you know and what you can. Admit if you don’t know, then find out and tell them. They’re the most sensitive creatures on earth, really genuine and not hypocritical. They grow up and some still remember what I said 20 years ago.”
Not all blue skies
One looming issue is the non-renewal of farm leases–the land is slated to become army training grounds and 62 farms (including Uncle William’s) with leases expiring between 2017 and 2021, are affected. We speak to the decade-wise and farmer-led kranji countryside association for its views through executive secretary, Manda Foo.
What’s kca’s take on locavorism here?
“KCA has organised and participated in various outreach and community events; coupled with a global movement towards locavorism, interest in local produce has risen considerably in the last three years. The Kranji Countryside Farmers’ Market’s launch (2014) drew huge crowds, generated a lot of sales and sent a clear message that locavorism is on the rise.”
How important is farming here?
“Local agriculture is a must for Singapore’s strategy for food security. Farming needs to grow and develop as a well-supported and appreciated industry that utilises technology, innovation and good design to overcome challenges of resource scarcity.”
What’s kca’s take on the expiring farm leases?
“We see the expiring leases and relocation/rebuilding of farms as a good opportunity to improve the industry. Moving forward, the industry needs reasonable land leases, access to skilled manpower, expertise, technology and networks. We will need the support of both consumers (who drive demand) and the government (who drives supply of our inputs). We are confident that locavorism will flourish.”
GOING FARM TO TABLE
Going 100 percent locavore is next to impossible in Singapore, but local farmers as well as tech giant Panasonic are working to increase our self-sufficiency. Panasonic is working with ootoya Japanese restaurant. It announced its pilot commercial supply of locally harvested vegetables in July 2014. This includes premium Japanese crop varieties like mini red radish, mizuna (potherb mustard) and red leafy lettuce, which feature in the restaurant’s seasonal salad menu.
The indoor agriculture farm, is housed in a 248 square metre facility in Tuas, where temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels are monitored and controlled for stable and high-quality production. It’s soil-based, and pesticidefree with LED lighting, to grow both leafy and root vegetables.
Ootoya’s three outlets get a total of 0.3 tonnes of vegetables each month. Panasonic is looking to increase that two-fold in two years, as well as up its contribution to local production from 0.015 percent to five percent by March 2017. Through vertical farming and shortening cultivation lead time, Panasonic also aims to grow over 30 types of crops (up from 10 now).
URBAN FARMING 101
We drop by Edible Garden City’s HQ to find out how to start growing microgreens (i.e. radish or mustard, in the “primary school” stage).
What you’ll need:
If you’re often away, invest in a self-watering pot ($12 at NONG). The peeps at Edible Garden City are also working on self-watering kits that they hope to roll out by March, as well as a series of workshops and talks (Feb-Apr).
GET YOUR FARM ON
Singapore’s total farming area (one percent of total land area) produces about eight percent of food consumed here. There are six agrotechnology parks, namely in Lim Chu Kang, Murai, Sungei Tengah, Nee Soon, Mandai and Loyang.
Aero-green technology (s) / Tropical Aeroponics www.aerogreentech.com.sg
Blooms & Greens www.bloomsngreens.com.sg
Bollywood Veggies www.bollywoodveggies.com
Chew’s Agriculture www.chewsegg.com
Chiam Joo Seng Towgay Growers & Suppliers 100 Lim Chu Kang Lane 3. Tel: 6792 2703
Comcrop by The Living! Project fb.com/ComCrop
D’kranji Farm Resort www.dkranji.com.sg [See Wok & Talk, p13]
Dairy Technology (s) 8 Lim Chu Kang Lane 8 (Plot LCK 6). Tel: 6793 7931
Eden Garden Farm #03-07, 213 Henderson Road. Tel: 9688 2280
Farm 85 Trading 81 Lim Chu Kang Lane 1 (Plot LCK 85). Tel: 6898 2003
Farmart Centre www.farmart.com.sg
Fire Flies Health Farm www.fireflies.sg
Fresh Milk Suppliers 5 Lim Chu Kang Lane 8A. Tel: 6793 7114
GHH Vegetables #14-71 WCEGA Tower, 21 Bukit Batok Crescent. Tel: 6565 0494
Ginza Farm Singapore www.ginzanouen.jp/sg
Greencircle Eco-farm www.greencircle.com.sg
Jurong Frog Farm (JFF) www.jurongfrogfarm.com.sg
Kin Yan Agrotech www.kinyan.biz
Kok Fah Technology / The ’Weekend Farm’ 18 Sungei Tengah Road. Tel: 6765 6629. www.kokfahfarm.com.sg
Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm 321 Neo Tiew Crescent. Tel: 6793 7038
Malaysian Feedmills Farms 2G Neo Tiew Lane 1. Tel: 6793 7156
N&N Agriculture 1 Lim Chu Kang Lane 9A. Tel: 6792 9742
Oh’ Farms (Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farms) www.ohfarms.com.sg
President International 2 Pasir Ris Farmway 1. Tel: 6582 3670
Quan Fa Organic Farm www.quanfaorganic.com.sg
Seng Choon Farm 1 Jalan Gemala 2. Tel: 6762 2858
Sky Greens Kallang Basin, 42 Kallang Place. Tel: 6294 8280
The Wholesome Co. www.thewholesomecompany. com
Viknesh Dairy Farm 6 Lim Chu Kang Lane 8A (Plot LCK 5)
Yili Vegetation & Trading 82 Lim Chu Kang Lane 1. Tel/Fax: 6316 2089
Ah Hua Kelong fb.com/kelongfish
Barramundi Asia www.barramundi.asia
Fish Vision Agro-Tech 6 Pasir Ris Farmway 1 Loyang Agrotechnology Park. Tel: 6582 2192
Marine Life Aquaculture marinelife-aquaculture.com
Metropolitan Fishery Group www.realseafood.com.sg
Rong-Yao Fisheries www.rongyao.com.sg
Straits Seafood Company fb.com/straitseafood
Tiberias Harvest / The Sampan Catch sampancatch.com
Agri Food Factories, Products & Suppliers Directory www.agri-biz.com
Kranji Countryside Association www.kranjicountryside.com sg
We are Singavore wearesingavore.com
WITHIN 718KM (SQUARE)
Aspiring locavores, this menu’s crafted for you.
– Banana bread from Bollywood Veggies ($12/loaf) The farm grows over 20 types of bananas like pisang ambon and pisang rajah
– Goat’s milk from Hay Dairies ($3 for a 200ml bottle) In chocolate or original from Prime Supermarket or via home delivery brunch
– Pigeon eggs from Uncle William’s @ Farmart ($5/egg) Limited. A translucent white; also said to have one of the lowest cholesterol levels
– Salad from Comcrop by The Living! Project ($9 in pre-made salads via Spinacas) Catch them at *Scape on Saturday mornings for their farm maintenance session
– Quail from Lian Wah Hang Quail and Poultry Farm ($18/pack of 10 spring quail) The farm’s been around since 1954 and halal certification was obtained in 2006
– Sweet mini tomatoes from Ginza Farm Singapore (about $8/packet) This Japanese farm based here uses a hydromembrane (soil-free, uses less water)
– Aloe vera jelly mixed fruits cocktail ($7) & lemongrass drink ($4) from Bistro Gardenasia Farm-fresh–made with ingredients from the Kranji Countryside. Refreshing and yum!
– Hashima from Jurong Frog Farm ($28.80/box) Get it local from Singapore’s only frog farm instead of those sourced from China
– Barramundi from Metropolitan Fishery Group/The Fish Farmer Reared in the fast-running and deep sea south of Singapore, the fish are strong and firm
– Edible cactus from Kin Yan Agrotech ($6/kg) Buy also organic wheatgrass, aloe vera, mushrooms and roselle fruits
– Flower crabs ($30/kg) and extra-large mussels ($8/kg) from Ah Hua Kelong Prices from the kelong’s December 2014 home delivery menu, really affordable
– Crocodile meat on bone from Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm (about $28.80.kg). Great with a bak kut teh recipe
Locavore vs local-made– what’s the difference?
If something is made in Singapore, it doesn’t mean it satisfies the locavore criteria–items used in the product’s making could have been sourced from outside of the local radius. For example, chia seeds from Australia could have been used in homemade granola mixes. However, if locally sourced ingredients have been used in the locally-made item, then it’s a double-hip-hip-hooray! #winning
*Try out local-made brands which made an appearance in the Tiong Bahru Crateful pop-up: The Mlk Co for nut milks and 3 Bites Full for natural nougat. Or pop by CT Hub 2 in Lavendar for Mina & Lilli’s customisable muesli and granola mixes.