SINGAPORE - Since 2016, Mr Ang Kian Chuan, 22, has been hard at work growing vegetables like kangkong, red spinach, pea sprouts and baby bok choy.
Mr Ang who has an intellectual disability, spends several hours a day tending to the crops in two greenhouses at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) Idea-Employment Development Centre in Rosyth Road.
It is hard work, but Mr Ang enjoys it. "I'll drink more water and put on a hat if it gets too hot," he said in Mandarin.
Mr Ang is one of 14 beneficiaries involved in farming activities at the Minds centre. The farming project was piloted in 2016 with the help of the National Parks Board and the now-defunct Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.
To help them complete their tasks, beneficiaries are provided with special tools that let them easily create holes in the soil and keep track of the seeds that they sow.
On Saturday (July 20), members of the public got to see the fruits - or rather, vegetables - of their labour at the opening of a new farmers' market organised by Minds. About 20kg of the produce they had grown were sold out within an hour of the start of the event which was attended by their caregivers as well as Rosyth residents.
The proceeds, which amounted to about $300, were split among the beneficiaries as additional allowance.
Currently, the farm produces enough vegetables per crop cycle to supply about three days' worth of meals for the 300 beneficiaries at the centre.
The plan is to hold the farmers' market more regularly once the construction of an additional greenhouse is completed by the end of the year.
This will double the number of beneficiaries involved in farming and increase the crop yield, said Minds deputy chief executive Koh Gee May.
Mr Ang's elder sister, Ms Ang Lay Tin, 26, said the farming project has been good for her brother. Before that, Mr Ang had worked as a cleaner in a factory for about a year, but was asked to leave after a "misunderstanding", she said.
"His mood improved after he joined. He learnt how to count money and how to take the bus. He's quite independent now," said Ms Ang, who works as a purchasing agent.
"I hope he can eventually find a job outside and get a stable income, so he can be even more independent and not have to depend on our mother."
Besides farming, other sheltered employment options, such as the recycling of airplane headphone sets for Singapore Airlines, are available to Minds beneficiaries at the centre.
Ms Koh said: "We are encouraged that our beneficiaries have taken very well to this project and are enjoying the work. It is heart-warming to see their self-confidence and sense of responsibility grow.
"We hope that through this project, Minds can develop deeper engagement with the residents and our wider community, to foster greater understanding and support for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families."
Members of the public can subscribe to be updated on future harvests and farmers' market events by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 9641-8689.