A budding community of green thumbs

Gardening enthusiasts checking out the winter melon plant at a community garden in Bukit Batok Central. The collective's core team comprises (from left) Suzanna Kusuma, Tan Hang Chong, Ng Huiying and Pui Cuifen. It has more than 700 likes on Facebook
Among other things, Foodscape Collective organises visits to various community gardens across the island and has booths at farmers' markets.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
Among other things, Foodscape Collective organises visits to various community gardens across the island and has booths at farmers' markets.
The collective's core team comprises (from left) Suzanna Kusuma, Tan Hang Chong, Ng Huiying and Pui Cuifen. It has more than 700 likes on Facebook.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
Gardening enthusiasts checking out the winter melon plant at a community garden in Bukit Batok Central. The collective's core team comprises (from left) Suzanna Kusuma, Tan Hang Chong, Ng Huiying and Pui Cuifen. It has more than 700 likes on Facebook
Gardening enthusiasts checking out the winter melon plant at a community garden in Bukit Batok Central. ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN

Foodscape Collective hopes to to start a 'cross-fertilisation' of green ideas, projects

Urban farming has taken root in Singapore, with the number of amateur gardeners and gardening enthusiasts growing over the years.

However, such gardens are still largely confined to individuals' own properties, with each person or group doing their own thing.

Now, a group called Foodscape Collective wants to bring together all these green thumbs - home farmers, community gardeners and organisations.

Ms Ng Huiying, 24, a research assistant at the National University of Singapore, and environmental scientist Pui Cuifen, 33, started the group last March and were soon joined by Ms Suzanna Kusuma, 36, who works in marketing, and environmental educator Tan Hang Chong, 42, who is also an assistant honorary secretary of the Nature Society of Singapore.

Their vision is to take community gardening a step further by building connections with the various such gardens and to start a "cross-fertilisation" of ideas, experiences and crops from one garden to another.

Mr Tan said: "We want to build a larger community out of all these gardens across Singapore."

NO FENCES

That's why we're called a collective - anyone who's interested in home gardening or food sustainability is welcome.

''ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST PUI CUIFEN, a co-founder of Foodscape Collective.

The group organises visits to the various community gardens across the island, sets up booths at farmers' markets and holds pot-luck dinners at which crops harvested from home gardens are cooked and shared.

The aim is to start a community of not just gardeners but also seed growers and savers.

Its latest project is the creation of a seed bank which saw seed packets mailed to interested gardeners. So far, 84 people have signed up for their packets, which contain basil, luffa and okra seeds.

Ms Ng said: "These plants grow well in Singapore's climate, and are easy for even newcomers to grow."

Those who receive the seeds will grow them until the plants that spring from them flower. They are then supposed to mail the seeds from the grown plants back to the collective.

The initial batch of seeds, which the group estimates it will receive in four months, will form the first seeds in the community seed bank.

The group is still getting requests from people who want to join this project, and it is considering another giveaway soon.

The four members consider themselves to be the core team of Foodscape, but said that, as a collective, anyone is welcome to join.

Ms Pui said: "That's why we're called a collective - anyone who's interested in home gardening or food sustainability is welcome."

There is no fixed number of members in the collective, said Ms Ng, but it has more than 700 likes on Facebook and almost 200 people have signed up for its newsletter.

The Foodscape Collective's concerns go beyond growing food and gardening - it also wants to study and share how food is consumed and distributed in Singapore, and how to cut food waste.

Food waste in Singapore has gone up by 48 per cent in the past 10 years. Last year, the National Environment Agency released figures showing that Singapore generated 788,600 tonnes of food waste, or about 146kg a person, in 2014.

The group's members collaborate with gardeners, cooks and chefs to raise awareness about the the entire chain of food production and consumption from seed to produce.

Ms Ng said: "We want to raise awareness of sustainable eating, and also introduce more peopleto the idea."

The group has also started an online map of community gardens which members can update to show where their gardens are and what events they are planning.

Up next is a community harvest next month, where it intends to reach out to the public to join the harvesting of crops grown in various public community gardens.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'A budding community of green thumbs'. Print Edition | Subscribe