SEED begins to grow

The days when urban farm plots will be spread across this crowded city are not too far away, as a new generation of Hong Kongers take to farming

Cynthia Wan

Like many urban dwellers around the world, Hong Kong people are cultivating a new hobby. After spending days inside air-conditioned offices, staring at computer monitors for countless hours, they will sweat under the blazing sun or brave the rain to tend their little farms during weekends and holidays.

Sustainable Ecological Ethical Development Foundation (SEED) is one the first organizations promoting organic farming in Hong Kong. Founded 15 years ago, it has helped over 30 organizations, including companies, residential buildings and schools setting up small urban farm plots across the city.

Chairman of SEED, Angus Lam noted the group, established in 15years ago, believed there was the need to pull resources together to rekindle the awareness in food safety and organic farming among the public.

Based in Kam Tin in the New Territories, SEED has trained a total of around 3,000 people to become leisure growers. Rather than relying on pre-packaged vegetables supplied by giant food manufacturers, these white-collar workers are growing their own produce.

SEED allows people to learn and practise farming. People can rent a farm of around 100-square-meter by paying HK$484 to HK$820 a season. These farms are scattered across the city. One of which is located on the rooftop at The Parc Palasi, a private residential estate in Ho Man Tin in Kowloon, with a size of 279 sq meters.

Produce Green Foundation is another organization promoting and developing organic movement in Hong Kong. Established in 1988 by a group of local enthusiasts concerned about modern farming and the environment, it organizes organic farming, environmental education and eco-tourism activities for people of different ages and back ground.

Big companies in Hong Kong, such as The Link and Jones Lang Lasalle also have programmes for its employees to enjoy urban farming.

Lam said SEED witnessed Hong Kong evolved in their attitudes towards farming - from concern on environmental protection to resurgence of localism as marked by a growing quest for conservation.

“People used to think of farming purely from the point of view of food safety,” Lam said, “Now people are asking more. Even if supply from Mainland China is safe, does that mean we can get rid of agricultural industry in Hong Kong completely? They want to feel connected to the soil and nature.”

As a sub-tropical city with distinctive change of weather, Hong Kong’s climate is ideal for growing a variety of up to 60 vegetables and herbs like cucumber, pole beans, hairy melon, tomato, mint, rosemary and thyme.

Auden Green Products Ltd, pioneer of growing mushroom by using modern method in Hong Kong & China said people’s awareness on food safety and environment made the city a paradise for local farmers.

“We rely heavily on food imported from the mainland but everyone knows food safety is a big concern. Besides, people now begin to think of carbon footprint, they do not want to have food imported from remote places since it means more harm to the earth with longer transportation,” founder of Auden, K S Wong said.

With three farms, each about 250 square meter established two years ago in Yuen Long, the group produces nine tones of white and brown mushroom every month.

The group also helps people set up mushroom farms in Hong Kong, so far and there are now three cases so far.

Wong said mushroom farms are the same everywhere around the world that greenhouse with a temperature about 20 degree Celsius and a relative humidity between 80-90 per cent is used.

“It means mushroom produced locally is the best produce for local people as transportation can be minimized and above all, it is the freshest.” Wong said, adding that they now have mushroom sold in supermarket chains in the city.

The government proposed setting up an Agri-Park to boost Hong Kong’s agriculture industry, Lam said it seemed to point to acquiring scattering plots within just in a single location.

“Farmers need to live on the farm. Soil quality differs from district to district. It doesn’t make sense to constrain farming activities in simply one area.”

The government does not have figure on the number of farms in Hong Kong but it now also wants to help farming in the city.

The Food and Health Bureau proposed to establish an Agri-Park with an area of 70 to 80 hectares, four times the size of Victoria Park, by providing funding and technological assistance to farmers under the Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund.

The proposal costs HK$ 7 billion in acquiring farmland, aimed at strengthening support to farming in the city by helping farmers move up the value chain, including marketing their produces and brand building.

“It is a good move, Hong Kong people love to have food produced in Hong Kong. Hope that we have more and more opportunities to do that,” said Wong.


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