Losing local eco-farm will come as loss to society

Come end-2021, the leases of 62 farms in Lim Chu Kang will run out and the land will be given over to military use (Farmers perplexed by 3rd lease extension; May 28, 2017).

I write in support of one of the farms, Green Circle, and how the military should accommodate this environmental cause.

In Green Circle's early days almost two decades ago, I had the opportunity to work under its owners, Mr and Mrs Lim, to transform the wild land into an eco-farm.

The Lims' objective was to do environmental good through food production, and their eco-farming methodology was rather simple: cultivate diversity, make compost and eschew pesticide.

They adopted the purist organic way, which is laborious but the results are rewarding.

In the early days, the land was cleared of elephant grass by hand and not with a diesel-powered excavator.

Instead of synthetic fertiliser pellets, green organic waste was ploughed into shredded tree branches to make compost rich in nitrogen and carbon.

Every day, baskets containing different varieties of chemical-free vegetables have been delivered to consumers.

At Green Circle, the Lims have stuck by their eco-beliefs and upheld the organic quality of the farm's produce despite losing out on production efficiency and price competitiveness.

In an age where many have compromised on values to solicit unethical commercial gains, the Lims' stubbornness deserves a mention.

How, then, is it possible to move forward?

Soil transplantation is not wise, especially for living soil that has been cultivated painstakingly over the last 20 years.

Moreover, in ecological terms, no two sites are ever alike. The confluence of environmental factors at the Green Circle's current site must have contributed to its ecological success.

So that essentially leaves us with only one option - to conserve the site.

The military's purpose is defence, but that national objective does not absolve it of its social and environmental responsibilities.

To not accommodate a minuscule farm and lose a local eco-farm will certainly come as a loss to society.

Please reconsider the decision to convert the land.

Tan Choon Ming

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2018, with the headline 'Losing local eco-farm will come as loss to society'. Print Edition | Subscribe