Singapore’s Green Heart

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There is so much at Kranji, Singapore’s green pocket, that awaits discovery.

Singapore’s Green Heart

Kranji, a lush, laid-back agricultural corner of the island, is a link to Singapore’s past, while also being a space where the future is being imagined through initiatives for environmental sustainability.

By Kim Lee with additional reporting by Preet Kaur

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ranji is Singapore’s agrarian pocket, a throwback to a greener, simpler time. It is a place where the roads are still narrow, winding and quiet, the air fresh with a green scent and people still have the time to say hello. Bereft of public transport links and relatively off the grid (septic tanks are necessary here), Kranji isn’t easy to stumble upon. But it has bred a stronghold of green-minded people, proud and hardworking, independent and creative, resilient and resourceful, who understand better than most how vital the land is to our lives beyond the property investments some think of when “land” is mentioned.

Unknown to most Singapore residents – even those who head overseas to give their children an experience of the countryside and farm life – these eco-warriors have been tirelessly advocating their cause of environmental sustainability.

In 2005, a few of Kranji’s leading personalities began to see the need to let people know of the existence of ‘Singapore’s wild wild West’ and what it offers in the way of forward-thinking, sustainable agriculture. This was the seed for starting the non-profit Kranji Countryside Association, now a group of 35 farms and businesses that promote sustainable food production and conservation, and educate children to appreciate the natural environment. All are elements in line with the growing global green consciousness.

Green Consciousness

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From left clockwise: Farm owners of the Kranji Countryside Association; Kenny Eng, Nyee Phoe Flower Garden; Ivy Singh-Lim, Bollywood Veggies; Chai Kien Chin, Firefly Health Farm; Yeo Lian Huat, Hausmann Marketing Aquarium; William Ho, Quail and Game Bird Farm; John Hay, Hay Diaries Goat Farm; Alan Toh, Yili Farm; Woon Chang Chyang, Kin Yan Agrotech; Lim Ho Seng, Bollywood Veggies; Wan Xiao Xi, Jurong Frog Farm.

Co-founder of Kranji Countryside Association is the self proclaimed ‘Gentlewarrior’ Ivy Singh-Lim, owner of the 10-acre Bollywood Veggies farm. Her take on green consciousness is “the simple understanding that land is life — that we should learn about how we can cultivate our land and live sustainably; that we should treasure what the Earth gives us without harmful alterations. It’s a kampung spirit and lifestyle, way before the Westerners brought in buzz words like ‘organic’ and ‘free-range’.”

For Liao Jun Jie, who runs Quan Fa Organic Farm, green consciousness is an “ecosystem where everything does not go to waste. For example, at Quan Fa, unused vegetables are turned into fertilizer.” Compost is made from natural substances like rock dust, wheat, soil, rotten fruits or vegetables. The no-waste culture of the eco-conscious takes its lead from Nature’s example, a closed loop where nothing is wasted.

The Country Life

Lim-Singh, co-founder of Kranji Countryside Association and owner of the 10-acre Bollywood Veggies farm, firmly believes that children especially need to get a meaningful experience of life as early as possible. She says, “We invent activities and games so that they can enjoy their time at the farm and understand that entertainment is not just pressing buttons and shooting things on a computer screen. We educate kids about what is really important in life: air, food and water, and not just money!”

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The organic farm at Bollywood Veggies, also known as “The Garden of Goodness”, is home to plants such as figs, pandan, jackfruit, coconuts, jasmine and garden herbs.

Helping Bollywood Veggies to grow awareness of this is Quan Fa. It is one of at least eight farms in Kranji where visitors can buy local produce. It also retails its organic vegetables at organic shops around Singapore and local supermarket franchises like Sheng Siong.

It runs tours for adults and children, or anyone interested in learning more about organic farming. “We explain the differences between organically grown produce and produce cultivated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and talk about the importance of eating organic vegetables,” says Liao.

Kids also get hands-on experience with planting. “If more people grow plants or vegetables, they can become more aware about food sustainability,” she says, noting that food sustainability is a hot topic because of political unrest, continued population growth, falling water tables and global climate change.

Experiences offered at Kranji’s countryside don’t just stop at planting. At Hay Dairies, children and adults can get close to watch goats being milked and even feed them, and buy fresh goat milk. For an “immersive” experience, there is old-style longkang (drain) fishing at Hausmann and Qian Hu fish farms. For those who want to do their groceries, there is Farmmart Centre, where apart from offering a wide choice of produce and some farming on the premises, is the only place in Singapore where one can see live bees on exhibit (while Singapore does not allow beekeeping, urban beekeeping is a trend taking off on rooftops in cities like London, New York, Berlin and Hong Kong).

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The “Kedai Kampung” or “village shop” at Bollywood Veggies sells produce directly from its farms in woven rattan baskets and adds rustic charm to Kranji.

No countryside experience would be complete without encounters with the wild, and for that, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is on the map. The 130-hectare reserve is a vital stopover for birds from as far as Russia which migrate from September to March towards warmer climes every winter. Away from the migration season, there is still much to see — resident sea birds, large monitor lizards, kingfishers, crocodiles and sea otters.

The Bigger Picture

Kranji has also been getting international attention. Kranji Countryside Association’s young entrepreneurial members have represented Singapore at agricultural conferences abroad that led to the association’s acceptance by the highly regarded Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, a confederation of national and international agricultural societies, associations and research bodies in more than 20 Commonwealth countries. The Kranji Countryside Association’s work in preserving the farming industry and concept of ‘agritainment’ — entertainment and recreation with agriculture — to sustain Singapore’s farming businesses was a model of urban-rural co-existence that intrigued the RASC.

Kranji has also caught the attention of LOHAS — Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. LOHAS, a global movement to educate consumers on healthier and more responsible choices, has made its Asian headquarters in Kranji, naming it the best LOHAS Region in Asia in 2011. The Kranji Countryside Association works with LOHAS Asia Pacific to promote sustainable best practices, local agriculture and low-impact and eco-friendly recreational activities.

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Petals & Leaves Bistro which serves Western favourites, local delights, salads and great desserts with a view of a pond.

The Other Side Of The Coin

Kranji countryside is another face of the Little Red Dot. As wild and green spaces in the nation shrink, it represents a touchstone for those who have seen the country change so quickly. It is one place where solace from stressful city life can be found, and perhaps where some can come to rediscover their soul in the vestige of Singapore that their grandparents would have recognised. It is also a shining example of the beacon of sustainability that Singapore holds out to the future.

More at kranjicountryside.com

Kampung Kitchens

Eateries that use fresh produce from the neighborhood.

Bollywood Veggie’s Poison Ivy bistro: A farm-fresh menu of local favourites, some deliciously updated, like deep-fried moring a leaves from the drumstick tree. Take an educational ramble through the farm and chuckle at the signposts.

Poison Ivy Bistro: 6898 5001
Call between 9 am to 6.30 pm.

Garden Asia’s Petals & Leaves Bistro: Serves Western and local favourites, salads and great desserts with a view of a pond.

Petals & Leaves Bistro:
9848 8179

 


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