ST+ Programme

Eye-opening visit to urban farm

The event hosted by Straits Times Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun (second from right) included a farm-to-table cooking demonstration by One Farrer Hotel & Spa chef Elson Cheong (centre).
The event hosted by Straits Times Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun (second from right) included a farm-to-table cooking demonstration by One Farrer Hotel & Spa chef Elson Cheong (centre). ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The 11,000 sq ft farm on One Farrer Hotel & Spa’s seventh floor boasts more than 60 varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit.
The 11,000 sq ft farm on One Farrer Hotel & Spa’s seventh floor boasts more than 60 varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Straits Times subscribers enjoy freshly harvested food and get inspired to grow vegetables on farm-to-table tour

Walking through the lush farm at One Farrer Hotel & Spa, with its watermelon patch, abundant beds of daikon and fragrant sweet basil plants, Ms Vicky Pang, 58, could not help but be amazed.

"It is so surprising that all these vegetables and fruit can grow in the hot Singapore weather," says the recruitment consultant.

She visited the farm with her brother Kenneth Pang, 63, a retiree who says the farm has inspired him to try his hand at growing vegetables.

"I was speaking to one of the farm's horticulturists and he taught me how to plant and grow chilli. I will go home and give it a try."

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The 11,000 sq ft farm, located on the hotel's seventh floor, boasts more than 60 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruit and edible plants, including Ceylon spinach, starfruit, blue pea flowers and kailan.

The Pang siblings were two of 20 Straits Times subscribers who were selected to enjoy a tour of the hotel's farm and taste some of its produce in a special farm-to-table event last Saturday.

The event, hosted by Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun and jointly organised by The Straits Times and One Farrer Hotel & Spa, included a farm-to-table cooking demonstration and lunch.

The multi-course lunch showcased items picked from the farm.

The event was part of the ST+ programme, which aims to reward loyal subscribers of the paper.

It includes discounts and privileges from brands including Canon and New Balance, as well as access to events such as movie screenings. Other perks include discounts for dining at top hotels and dining chains, exclusive room deals from hotel partners and more.

Entrepreneur James Chia, 39, who attended the event with his eight-year-old daughter Genevieve, says it was an enlightening experience.

"It's good to see an urban farm and learn how the hotel's chefs use the plants grown here in their cooking."

The founder of education technology company ArcLab says the tour was also educational for his daughter. "I'm happy that she got to see how vegetables and fruit grow."

Chef Elson Cheong, 40, says he was glad to see people taking such a keen interest in the farm.

"I myself head up to the farm twice a week to check on what is growing and get inspiration for my dishes. So it was exciting to share that with others."

Ms Tan, 49, says: "I fell in love with the farm the first time I visited and it was no less enchanting the second time. What made today special was meeting readers who are passionate about food and gardening and seeing their reactions to tasting freshly harvested fruit and vegetables.

"We were lucky to have two of the farm's four full-time farmers on hand to talk to us about how they manage the farm and I think our readers got good gardening tips from them.

"The food, needless to say, tasted extra good."

Lunch started off with a smoked chicken salad drizzled with the chef's dressing, made with honey, lemon and lime juice, and yogurt. The plate was filled with vegetables from the farm.

The main course was barramundi with a rich laksa paste wrapped in Ti leaves harvested from the farm and baked, pickled green papaya and angel hair pasta tossed with Thai basil pesto, with the basil also harvested from the farm.

For dessert, there was pan-fried banana with passionfruit, calamansi and honey.

The chef surprised the guests with a fourth course - a tasting platter of his three signature dishes: Kuala Lumpur-style fried Hokkien mee, chilli crab noodles and durian fried rice.

Those who attended the event received goodie bags containing recipe cards for the dishes served during the lunch, notebooks from The Straits Times and the hotel's Dilly Bread and bread and butter pickles. Both were made from recipes by Doris, the late mother of the hotel's chairman, Dr Richard Helfer.

Dr Helfer, 67, says he hopes more people in Singapore will become interested in farming.

"When you walk through the farm and experience how things grow, the food tastes different. Knowing where exactly your food comes from shifts your perspective."

The American hotelier, who prides himself as being the farm's chief farmer, says it is part of the hotel's intent to create a "total lifestyle environment" for its guests.

He adds that the farm is "a natural beacon of learning and knowledge to all".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2017, with the headline 'Eye-opening visit to urban farm'. Print Edition | Subscribe