From The Good earth
Freshly-harvested greens from Kok Fah Tehnology Farm. The Kranji Countryside Association hopes that their plans for Singapore’s first permanent farmers’ market will become a reality in the near future.
Singapore is seeing more environmentally-responsible vendors bringing in sustainably-grown produce to weekend farmers’ markets, in response to an increasing demand by health-conscious consumers.
By Joyce Huang
ustainable living is about the small everyday choices that add up to make global impact — and this includes the food we eat. Natural, fresh and wholesome foods that stem from responsible farming methods are the best way to safeguard health in the wake of chronic and lifestyle diseases that has followed urbanisation, convenience foods, industrial agriculture and genetically-modified produce. Consumer awareness of this is encouraging farmers’ markets — markets which typically sell fresh produce directly from local farmers to consumers — to sprout in different parts of Singapore.
Strong Product Knowledge
One regular farmers’ market vendor here is former journalist Cynthia Wee-Hoefer, owner of Organic Himalaya (www.facebook.com/OrganicHimalayaSG). Fortnightly, she flies in fresh organic vegetables and herbs from Nepal grown on her land as well as neighbouring farms.
Organic Himalaya caters largely to regular customers who order via email for home delivery at email@example.com. She sells the vegetables in the open market at The Pantry Farmers’ Market at Loewen Gardens, where Wee-Hoefer sets up stall twice a month.
Cynthia Wee-Hoefer at the Farmers Market.
At the Farmers’ Market, Wee-Hoefer gets to interact with customers who are into sustainable consumption. “People love the idea of buying fresh produce from a person they can actually talk to and know confidently that everything comes from a known source. I am the (consumer’s) link to the farmers.”
The market (thepantrycookeryschool.com/wp/farmersmarket) started three years ago in a bid to bring sellers and consumers together, both parties passionate about artisanal food and sustainable produce. Each instalment features about 10 to 15 different vendors. Depending on the season, offerings range from organic vegetables, gourmet cheeses and boutique wines to gluten-free breads, artisanal cheeses, and homemade baked goods and pasta sauces.
“Documentary films are exposing the practices of largescale farming or monoculture; numerous books are expounding statistics with reports of modern food processing and eating habits that will scare us away from the frozen food hypermarket lanes. I think that it pays off in the long term to eat produce that is grown without fungicide, growth hormones, antibiotics or primed with gases and waxes,” says Wee-Hoefer.
Organic Himalaya available at The Pantry Farmers’ Market at Loewen Gardens
75 Loewen Road. Tel: 9863 0434 (Cynthia Wee) First and third Saturday of each month, 9.00am to 2pm
“I think that it pays off in the long-term to eat produce that is grown without fungicide, growth hormones, antibiotics or primed with gases and waxes.”
- Cynthia Wee-Hoefer, Organic Himalaya
Visitors to Kampung Senang pick up gardening tips on how to grow organic vegetables.
Not all organic produce need to come from other countries, though. Over at an organic farm in heartland Tampines, 14 types of local vegetables, and over 100 varieties of herbs and fruits, are tended by volunteers. Herbs and local vegetables like sweet potato leaves are cultivated without chemicals and pesticides. Fruits like banana and papaya are fertilised using compost and incense ash. Joyce Lye, a former banker and co-founder of the Kampung Senang Charity and Education Foundation, (kampungsenang.org/organic-farm-tours), explains that the farm came about because the “organisation wants to maintain a self-sufficient source of organic produce”. Each morning, freshly harvested vegetables are delivered to select cancer patients across Singapore. The surplus is sold to the public at its weekend market.
Lye takes sustainable living seriously. Kampung Senang — as the foundation is often referred to — organises farm tours for visitors and shoppers to educate them on organic and responsible farming practices, and helps them set up their own little organic gardens at home. “It is a small move towards food self-sufficiency,” Lye explains.
Kampung Senang Weekend Market
Blk 840 Tampines Street 82, #01-111. Tel: 6785-2568 Every Saturday, 8.30am to 2pm
Kampung Senang was established in 1999 by Lye with her husband James Low. They envisioned a place where people are cared for and the environment is looked after. Charity work carried out by this eco-conscious organisation comprises an elderly day-care, children’s care centre, a wellness centre with free medical services, as well as a holistic lifestyle centre.
Kampung Senang organises farm tours for visitors or shoppers to educate them on organic and responsible farming practices and help them set up their own little organic gardens at home.
Balance is Key
Organic food purveyors understand that not everyone can afford to go completely organic. Unlike the other weekend markets, PasarBella at The Grandstand Bukit Timah is a permanent market that opens daily.
Despite their increased popularity and health benefits, organic produce is still comparatively more expensive than conventionally-farmed produce.
Daphne Hedley is the co-founder of Mekhala, a lifestyle brand that carries a variety of organic products like rice, noodles, curry pastes, jams and teas. Mekhala’s range of organic food and spa products are sourced from around Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. Her stall can be found at PasarBella (www.pasarbella.com).
“The world’s population cannot be sustained on purely organic, locally-grown food,” explains Hedley. “You could have a dinner of our organic black rice with hormone-free beef stir-fried in our black pepper sauce, and pair that with an organic vegetable dish. But if the vegetable was flown in from Holland, you’re helping your body, but you’re sacrificing the Earth. So we acknowledge that balance is key.”
The Cheese Ark at PasarBella offers artisanal cheeses produced in Switzerland, France, the Netherlands and Italy. Seen here is owner Syu Ai Ming.
Inspired by iconic farmers markets around the world (London’s Borough Market, Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market etc), coowner Clovis Lim decided to create a similar concept in Singapore, bringing together more than 30 tenants into the 30,000 sqft PasarBella. Established local names like Da Paolo Gastronomia, Shiraz Mazzeh and Huber’s Deli as well as exclusive brands make their debut here. Artisanal offerings include The Cheese Ark, which gathers rare cheeses from cheese-makers who belong to the Slow Food Presidia. Merchants brings in boutique wines from Australian wineries which boast of fair trade practices. Shoppers can stock up on organic supplies at SG Organics and The Organic Grocer, and perhaps pick up a bottle or two of organic or biodynamic wines from Straits Wine Organic for their dinner parties.
PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah Singapore
200 Turf Club Road Tel: 6887-0077 Daily, 9:30am to 7pm
Going for the Exotic
When it comes to food provenance, fussy eaters are now more inclined to ask pertinent questions: “Were chemicals or fertilisers used in its production?” “How were the fruit/vegetables grown?”
While supermarket chains are stocking their shelves with more organic produce, one gourmet grocer noticed an increase in consumer interest in wholesome, nutritious organic food and decided to tap into this growing demand. Partly owned by Four Seasons Gourmet Market, Rochester Market, (www.facebook.com/RochesterMarket) is a supermarket-cumretail outlet of fresh seasonal produce, gourmet and organic products, mainly from Australia and USA — considered leaders in the organic industry — at Rochester Mall.
Rochester Market which initiated the concept, organises a monthly weekend Farmers’ Market to showcase products not available locally. For example, locals are fascinated by organic purple carrots from Australia, sun-ripened vine tomatoes from Holland and purple cauliflower from France.
35 Rochester Drive, Rochester Mall. Tel: 6684-6733 First Saturday and Sunday of each month, 9am to 2pm
Says Joe Tan, General Manager of Ban Choon Marketing, “Farmers’ Market is a relatively new concept for Singaporeans. We notice consistently that consumers are more conscious about their food choices. They are purchasing products that are glutenfree, produce grown according to sustainable farming methods and which are free from additives or pesticides or colouring.”
As more consumers become increasingly ecologically-aware, purchasing and supporting organic products are fundamental contributions to sustainable living. This upward trend will only augur more such farmers’ markets sprouting all around Singapore. ‘The Circle of Life’ concept by the Kranji Countryside Association is one such initiative aimed at conserving Singapore’s natural resources and promoting a lifestyle of sustainability. A project in the making, it’ll culminate in a permanent farmer’s market showcasing Singapore’s diverse farming and artisanal industries.
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