When Farmer Meets the Urban Jungle
What happens when a farmer meets the urban jungle?
I visited the Edible Garden City as part of the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Summit this morning. I must admit it had been quite a learning experience for me.
As I reflect on the visit, here are 5 lessons about life I learned from the visit.
1. “It’s all concrete!”
It was interesting hearing Bjorn, the founder of Edible Garden City, speak about how EGC came to be. Bjorn wanted to start a farm in Singapore but met his first challenge when he found out that he needed a track record and lots of startup capital to do so.
But as he walked around the city, he saw opportunities for spaces to be used for urban farms. That sowed the seed, forgive the pun, for EGC. Further down the road, he was offered a piece of land for his work but it had cemented ground which was not suitable for farming. But today, the site is home to Citizen Farm, which houses operations where food is produced using techniques such as aquaponics and hydroponics; employment for the underprivileged is created; research & development on food production is undertaken and where people are educated about urban farming. His sharing reminds me that when things may seem to be a dead end, it might just not be it.
In the Bible, God says “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” ~ Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)
So lesson 1: Things may seem bleak but it may not be a dead end. There is always hope and opportunities.
2. “The land needs to rest”
During the tour around the farm, our guide brought us to a section and told us that they were growing earlier but are now allowing the land to rest before they begin their next round of cultivation.
If land needs rest, what more so us?
“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.” ~ Exodus 23:10-12 (ESV)
Lesson 2: To be productive and grow, intentionally allow time for rest.
3. “Closed loop system”
During the sharing, Bjorn kept using the term “closed loop system” to describe how they intentionally “close the loop” in food production; for example, they would obtain food waste to produce worm compost which is then fed back into the system for food production. As part of the process, more good is done as they create employment for the underprivileged, incubate farms, reduce food waste, help clients gain therapeutic effects through farming etc.
I have learned that we as humans are capable of great good. All it takes is a little extra effort to really think about how we can close the loop of what we are doing to maximize good. It is possible.
Lesson 3: Put in effort to close the loop; to maximize good through what you are doing to create the greatest good.
4. “Plants absorb blue and red light best”.
This was something new to me. As we toured the indoor farm, the guide shared that plants absorb blue and red light best while they merely reflected green light.
Lesson 4: Place yourself in the right conditions to grow. Just as it’s no point for plants to be placed in green light, so it’s no point in us being in conditions that will not help us, or worse, stunt our growth. Knows what helps us grow to be the person we are meant to be (and that which would pull us further away) and pursue these things. Better still, help create conditions for others to grow to become the versions of who they are meant to be.
5. “It’s about the people”
Throughout the visit, I kept hearing from the speaker and the guide how their work is ultimately about people; its not about farming etc but about people. This explains the work they do which centres around enabling sustainable food production, creating social value and reducing food wastage.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” ~ Masanobu Fukuoka
There was even a story behind how one of their “in-house” alchemist researched and developed an organic skin product out of a desire to help a loved one cope with Eczema.
Such is the power of a purposeful life.
Lesson 5: People matters. Everyone has a life story. Recognize that, get to know these life stories and contribute to theirs as other contribute to yours.
Never expected to learn valuable lessons about life but here you have it. Hope it blesses you.
James is the Lead Thrive-Synergist & Founder of Emmaus Strategies; a social enterprise that “fuels good”. It does this through Mental Well-Being programmes for individuals and organizations, as well as Strategic Volunteer Partnerships consultancy and training for non-profits.