80 plots in HortPark all taken up by urban farmers

Ms Faith Foo, who has planted corn, eggplants and melons in her HortPark plot since August, says the NParks' scheme has taken root because the plot renter can control what he wants to grow. In community gardening schemes, everyone chips in but the he
Ms Faith Foo, who has planted corn, eggplants and melons in her HortPark plot since August, says the NParks' scheme has taken root because the plot renter can control what he wants to grow. In community gardening schemes, everyone chips in but the head gardener retains the final say.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Success of NParks' rental initiative shows Singaporeans' growing interest in farming

Urban farming is sinking deeper roots in Singapore, if a new pilot scheme at HortPark is anything to go by.

Launched in July by the National Parks Board (NParks), the allotment gardening scheme comprises 80 plots that can be rented by individuals via three-year leases.

The rent is $57 a year.

The plots - each about 2.5 sq m - have all been snapped up and there is now a waiting list.

One of the proud farmers, Ms Faith Foo, 40, has harvested farm edibles such as corn, eggplants and melons since starting out in August.

Ms Foo, founder of The Living Centre which trains and equips urban farmers and promotes holistic living, said she has seen an increased interest in urban farming in recent years, especially among those in their 20s and 30s.

She puts this down to several factors, such as people looking at more healthy and holistic living practices, including avoiding food that may have pesticides.

And there are some seeking "different and creative ways to relieve the stress" of busy lives.

Though there are existing urban farming schemes, Ms Foo said the HortPark project has a special appeal since it grants a plot renter full control over what is planted.

In contrast, she added, the NParks' Community in Bloom initiative offers a place where everyone shares a plot and decisions - depending on each individual garden - require the head gardener's approval.

"But some people may want a greater sense of ownership," she noted.

Other urban farmers have also noticed growing interest.

Mr Bjorn Low, 36, a co-founder of Edible Garden City which creates and maintains rooftop farms, said there "has been a general increase across the board" in knowing where one's food comes from.

The picture is similar for those who rent out much larger plots of land, such as those in Lim Chu Kang's D'Kranji which range from 5,000 to 100,000 sq ft.

D'Kranji's business development manager Nicholas Lai, 27, said he has also received more inquiries on renting plots in recent years.

Whatever the reasons for urban farming's rising popularity, its advocates are happy with the scene here.

On allotment gardening, Mr Ng Cheow Kheng, group director of horticulture and community gardening at NParks, said it will look into expanding the initiative, depending on demand.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline '80 plots in HortPark all taken up by urban farmers'. Print Edition | Subscribe