NParks to distribute 400,000 seed packs of edible plants this year

Prior to the latest distribution, NParks had already distributed 460,000 seed packets, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee. PHOTO: NPARKS

SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board (NParks) will be distributing a total of 400,000 seed packets of edible plants this year, and gardeners can start registering their interest for them from 10am on Sunday (Oct 10).

This distribution will take the total number of seed packets given out under the Gardening with Edibles programme to 860,000 since the programme's launch in June 2020, NParks said on Saturday (Oct 9) at the launch of the Singapore Garden Festival Horticulture Show (SGF Hort Show).

The gardening programme aims to encourage the public to garden at home or in community and allotment gardens. It is also aligned with Singapore's food security goal of producing 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee, who officially opened the SGF Hort Show at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday morning, said that gardening and horticulture can not only beautify Singapore's streets, estates, and homes, but can also benefit human health and well-being.

For instance, an NParks study conducted between May and July 2021 involving around 5,700 participants from the Gardening with Edibles programme showed that those who gardened regularly had higher mental resilience than those in the general community.

Growing edible plants will also allow people to enjoy the produce in their meals, Mr Lee said, adding: "In doing so, we can become more aware of the value of food and the hard work that our local farmers put in every day."

Mr Lee said that prior to the latest distribution, NParks had already distributed 460,000 seed packets.

"We very encouraged by this overwhelming demand," Mr Lee said, and urged people to join in the national gardening movement by registering their interest for the next round of seed packet distributions.

Mr Lee said the Government also wants to support urban farms run by social enterprises.

Such community urban farms not only grow produce, but also allows the community to bond through gardening activities and programmes, said Mr Lee, who is also Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration.

He added: "They can also provide part-time employment opportunities for residents in the area, especially seniors and persons with special needs who prefer to work near their homes."

To this end, NParks will be launching the Social Enterprise Community Urban Farm Grant.

Also a part of the Gardening with Edibles programme, the grant aims to create more spaces for recreational gardening, increase community engagement through gardening-related activities and provide more micro-employment and volunteering opportunities to residents.

The grant will have two components. The Infrastructure Support Grant will help social enterprises set up new community urban farms at pre-identified plots, by co-funding the site development costs. The Programming Support Grant will provide funding for social enterprises to run hands-on edible gardening workshops for the community.

Applications for the grant will open soon, and social enterprises and encouraged to apply, Mr Lee said.

Plant enthusiast Lydia Sim, 52, is excited to receive seed packets in the mail this year.

The housewife told The Straits Times: "I managed to get some seed packets last year. I have green fingers, so I've always enjoyed gardening and having home-grown vegetables for dinner."

Another avid gardener, who wanted to be known only as Madam K. Chan, 55, did not manage to get her hands on the seed packets previously, and is looking forward to doing so this year.

This year's SGF Hort Show is the second one so far, and is being held in conjunction with the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Heritage Festival 2021.

The public can take part in a slew of online activities and events from Oct 9 to Oct 31.

The SGF Hort Show debut was held two years ago at Jurong Lake Gardens, where Singaporeans enjoyed horticultural displays, show plants and a pop-up marketplace.

Mr Desmond Lee takes a picture of a winning orchid plant at the SGF Hort Show at Botanic Gardens on Oct 9, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

But this year, changes had to be made to adapt to the current Covid-19 situation.

Assuring the public that there is still an exciting line-up of events, Mr Lee said: "Do join in our virtual talks, workshops, and activities from home. You can pick up gardening and floral display tips from our local experts, and learn more about plants."

Members of the public can also take part in a range of online programmes, including demonstrations and Facebook Live sessions to receive tips on how to create floral displays.

Those interested can take part in the Horticultural Competition across nine categories, such as air plants, edible plants and ferns.

Others can also enjoy SGF's first online marketplace on online shopping platform Shopee.

Shoppers can purchase plants, gardening and horticultural products, as well as arts and crafts from more than 20 retailers.

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