Speech by SMS Dr Koh Poh Koon at the Opening of Citizen Farm @ Jalan Penjara

It is a great pleasure for me to be here to join you at this opening of Citizen Farm @ Jalan Penjara. It is really an impressive example of how a piece of vacant State land that could have been left empty for many more years to come, can be transformed into an inclusive and environmentally sustainable farm that benefits the community, not just within the facility, but impacting more lives beyond the immediate facility.

In fact, what has taken place here in Jalan Penjara is part of a broader and global urban farming movement. In New York, farms have been built on rooftops of industrial buildings. In London, a farm has been set up in a former underground air raid shelter. When I visited Tokyo several months ago with a group of farmers from Singapore and officials from AVA, I saw how Hanshin Electric Railway, a traditional railway company, had set up indoor vegetable farming racks in viaducts beneath the railway tracks of Tokyo. Imagination is indeed a very powerful tool and is something our youths here today have in abundance. What we see here today � this very eye-catching and cool place, is an example of the manifestation of what the imagination and the power of ground initiatives can do for us.

Singapore is also part of this movement. For example, we have Community in Bloom (CIB) projects in our housing estates. These are largely ground up initiatives that grow ornamentals and edibles alike for their respective communities. But the Government also plays a part by making the spaces available and by doing things like running a Master Growers programme to encourage the gardeners to grow more edibles to improve their skills, to give them a greater sense of involvement and satisfaction.

We also have enterprises like Edible Garden City and Comcrop. These are commercial entities with a strong social mission. For instance, Edible Garden City employs special needs adults here at Citizen Farm, providing gainful employment and meaningful career progression. I understand that employees with the right abilities and aptitude can also seek career progression, moving up to sales and management positions. Similarly, Comcrop has a volunteer base ranging from students to retirees who seed, transplant and harvest the crops at their farm on the rooftop of *Scape mall. The farm not only grows food, but instils a sense of belonging and bonding across different age groups and communities.

Other companies are starting to jump onto this bandwagon of urban farming. CapitaLand for example, a well-known property developer, is building a farm in their new Funan Centre. The farm will allow people to adopt a plot within Funan Centre and grow their own produce! Meanwhile, Open Farm Community, a restaurant at Dempsey, brings to life the idea of farm-to-fork by having a vegetable farm right in the restaurant. These are very interesting concepts which are emerging and it actually challenges us to think of innovative ways to do these things, in an urbanised place like Singapore.

These urban farming initiatives complement what the Government is doing in trying to transform our farming industry. For one thing, they generate greater awareness of farming amongst Singaporeans. Certainly, for people living around the area, they would have a greater sense of awareness of what urban farming is about. This means that there will be a better understanding of what it takes to grow our food. It also means a better understanding of the challenges we face as a very small country with limited land, in trying to achieve better food security.

We hope that greater understanding can generate an appreciation among Singaporeans that they too, can all play a part in the important role that our national food security aims to achieve. Perhaps, by knowing how to grow the food, and how much effort it takes to get to the point of harvesting, everyone will play a more active role in preventing food wastage. Sometimes when food comes easily, we tend to take things for granted. In tandem, supporting local produce will help encourage all our farmers to invest and also leverage on technology to produce even more. Together, these efforts will help strengthen our food supply resilience. So I hope all of us here today will remember to support local produce, and consider picking up some local produce the next time you are at a supermarket, as all of us have a part to play.

We also hope that urban farming can spark an interest in our next generation, to take on farming as a career choice, as an area where they can put innovative thinking in. All around the world, traditional farms are facing challenges and difficulties attracting the next generation of farmers. Today, as the population gets more educated, it is hard to imagine anyone who wants to work in the hot sun and do back-breaking work with very little returns. I think this is where urban farming, with its liberal application of technology, innovation and creative use of unconventional spaces, whether it is under the viaduct, or in a small piece of land, can appeal to this younger generation because it is novel, cutting edge and unconventional. The fact that it is also environmentally-sustainable also appeals to the altruism of youths, and helps to galvanise them to take proactive steps to get themselves involved as well.

Urban farming also provides a platform for bonding activities which help to cultivate people-to-people connections while reconnecting us back with nature. Many of us would have heard stories about how our children have no idea where their food comes from because they have only seen fruit and vegetables in supermarkets! At the same time, many older Singaporeans (especially those who used to live in kampungs) have much to share in terms of knowledge about growing food from the soil.

When the older and younger generations come together in our urban farms, they build bonds that transcend across generations. It also provides a form of engagement for the elderly, to keep themselves mentally active. We are already seeing this happening in our CIB projects, and I think we can do more by encouraging ground initiatives like this to flourish.

Let me end by extending congratulations to Edible Garden City on the opening of Citizen Farm @ Jalan Penjara. The team at Edible Garden City has put in a lot of work, not just in producing food, but also in pushing for sustainability and for providing employment opportunities to those who are less fortunate. We welcome such citizen-led initiatives. In this case, many of our government agencies are supportive – MND, AVA, URA, SLA and other agencies worked closely together to find this site for Edible Garden City. Let me take this opportunity to thank all of you for the hard work to make this a reality. Let us work together to find ways to facilitate more urban farming activities in our garden city. Thank you.

Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore

Related Post
The Police are appealing for information on the whereabouts of 80-year-old Sim Kim Teck, who
The Police have arrested a 21-year-old man for his suspected involvement in a case of
The Police have arrested a 21-year-old man for his suspected involvement in a case of