In this series of light-hearted interviews, BiTES celebrates homegrown food companies headed by their next generation of family members. We get a glimpse of the stories behind the brands and the personalities in the boss’ seat.
Share a fond memory of your great-grandparents/grandparents.
My great-grandparents passed away when I was very young. Grandfather was strict and grandmother was very hard working–even when she was in a wheelchair, she would still go out to the farm to help out.
When did you first help out on the farm?
I used to guide the farm tours when I was in JC and dabbled in operations beginning of this year. The turning point for my decision was in 2014–I was completing my Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication when an investor wanted to buy the farm. I decided then I couldn’t take it for granted that the farm would be here forever and to join seriously before it’s too late. university, but I’ve only really joined the farm and dabbled in operations beginning of this year. The turning point for my decision was in 2014–I was completing my Masters in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication when an investor wanted to buy the farm. I decided then I couldn’t take it for granted that the farm would be here
How is like working with your family?
I’m currently working with my uncles, aunties and parents. One of my cousins and my younger brother are helping out too. While it can sometimes be tricky working with such a big family, there are definitely more ups than downs. It’s also great that my relatives are really understanding and flexible too. Whenever I’m offered photography assignments overseas (I still do freelance), they will help to cover my duties on the farm.
Share with us your day to day activities.
I live on the farm to save travel time so I can sleep in till 8am. If we have tours in the morning, I would help prepare the free vegetables to give away to visitors. My third uncle, who is very forward-thinking and a self-taught engineer, is actively passing on his knowledge in the production aspect to me. There are days where we conduct experiments on the greenhouse and crops; other times we are cloning our herbs. There isn’t a fixed task; every day differs. forever and to join seriously before it’s too late.
What’s your main business strategy?
We started growing local greens first like xiao bai, chye sim, and kang kong. Eventually, we grew cool season veggies like butterhead lettuce, which is one of our best selling vegetables, and finally herbs in 1996. We supply our greens to NTUC under the housebrand, PASAR.
What are your future plans for Oh’ Farms?
Right now, the future is uncertain. The current land lease ends in 2020 and AVA might take back the piece of land, which means we would need to find a new plot of land, starting everything from scratch.
What are your strongest skills?
I won’t say I have any particularly strong skills. I think the most important thing is my deep interest in breeding and learning about the greens and herbs–that’s what keeps me motivated in contributing to the farm and to constantly grow my knowledge in farming.
Are you active on social media?
Yes. I’m doing my best to build up Oh Chin Huat Farms’ accounts now. You can follow us at @ohfarms on Instagram and Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farm Pte Ltd on Facebook. My personal Instagram account (@orehuiying) is most active when I’m overseas.
Can you cook? What’s your signature dish?
Yes, I learnt how to cook from an Italian housemate when I was living and working in London. I would like to say my signature is risotto (laughs), but I think that’s a bold statement, so let’s keep it to pumpkin rice (laughs).
If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Century egg and pork porridge! It’s a very comforting food. I like the one from Telok Blangah Market and Maxwell Food Centre.
THE BRIEF STORY OF OH’ FARMS
Started off as a coconut plantation in Yio Chu Kang by great-grandfather, Oh Chin Huat, who had seven sons working together with him.
In 1973, the government acquired the land for housing redevelopment and they moved to Punggol to start a pig rearing farm, where approximately 100 family members lived and work together. The pigs were flown in from America.
Due to noise and environmental pollution, pig rearing was eventually banned by the government and they suffered huge losses. “My eldest uncle decided to go into hydroponics farming–we were one of the first in Singapore–in 1991 and went to Taiwan to learn more about hydroponics farming.”
Opened Butterfly Lodge, as her uncle enjoys macro photography and shares it with fellow hobbyists. The lodge is used for educational purposes.