Jan 7, 2015

Sow, Harvest & Eat: Urban Farming So Simple That Kids Can Do it!

Every kid should know where his/her food comes from, and have at least a basic knowledge of how to plant and nurture a seed to its tasty fruition. Or at least that is what the wifey and I believe in.

And how much more fun can acquiring this skill be than getting one's hands dirty and experiencing the tasty rewards of their own handiwork?

So when a reader alerted me to a hidden gem tucked away on the top of a hill in Bukit Panjang, I was immediately game to bring my monkies down for a lesson in nature.

And as you can probably see, what an absolute gem it turned out to be.

For starters, getting to Urban Farm & Barn is like stumbling onto a secret hideaway in Singapore. Located at Bukit Panjang Hill Community Farm at the top of the hill, we had to trek up a short scenic walk up the service road from the carpark at Blk 210 Petir Road.

But it will be well worth the calories burned.

The entire place was so quaint that the wifey remarked everything looked like a set from a Taiwanese drama. Perhaps the Christmas decorations while we were there made the place more whimsical than usual, but being surrounded by a variety of vegetables and plants made us feel immediately refreshed.

The urban farm is well-stocked with herbs and edibles growing in the show gardens which featured raised beds, a step garden, herb fountain and a vertical garden. Ample signs that detail the plants' names and their characteristics accompany the plants as well, making it an informative session for the monkies as well.

Oh and if you are lucky, you may just get to help harvest some vegetables too... like how Ayd helped snipped off some lady's fingers.

Do check out the mini eco-pond too, which counts some tadpoles as its residents, as well as this tree frog that the monkies managed to spot.

The monkies also got to touch some earthworms in the compost heap too, and I was surprised that Ale was not freaked out by the wriggling worms. She, together with the boys, even asked if they could bring some home to keep as pets!

Wriggly earthworms aside, the highlight of Urban Farm & Barn is the chance to allow members of the public to grow some vegetables on their own.

I think we can all agree that growing vegetables on our own is definitely a healthier choice. We know what goes into the growing of the vegetables and most importantly, we can ensure that no harmful pesticides are used. On the other hand though, most of us are constrained by the lack of space at home, or just lacking the time and gardening know-how.

Now, Urban Farm & Barn has the perfect solution.

The farm boasts a vertical farming system, where rows and rows of farming racks are available for rent. Members of the public can rent 20 trays of compost - slotted into a rack - for $50 a month (minimum rental for 3 months). What's more, 40% of the rent goes to a fund for students from low-income families!

The beauty of the vertical farming system is the only decision we had to make was the type of vegetables to grow! And once we had sowed the seeds, our job was done as the farm's automated irrigation system meant that everything else was taken care of. All these, without toiling in the sun!

Depending on the type of vegetables chosen, they take between one and two to grow and will be ready to be harvested then.

During our tour of the vertical farm, we had the opportunity to pop some fresh sunflower sprouts into our mouths and they tasted so fresh! Ale especially, could not resist asking for a second helping. Heh.

Predictably, the monkies could not wait to get their hands dirty after our brief tour!

Our choice of vegetables consisted of lettuce, pak choy, sunflower sprouts and wheatgrass. And after piling on the fertilizer and compost, the seeds were scattered evenly onto the trays.

And we were done! Easy peasy, no?

The monkies then transferred the trays to the vertical farm.. all in an urban farmer day's work!

But a thoroughly enjoying experience, as my monkies will tell you.

All that was left to do was to wait for our seeds to sprout.

Fast forward 1 week later, look what had become of the monkies' gardening efforts!

The sunflower sprouts and wheatgrass were were ready to be harvested, while the romaine lettuce and pakchoy needed another one week or so to further mature. Suffice to say, the monkies were utterly excited in being able to harvest the fruits - or leaves - of their labour.

I even spied Ale sneaking some sunflower sprouts into her mouth!

And you can probably guess we all had fresh fibre for dinner that very night. Best of all, every stalk is chemical-free as all of the nutrients came from the seeds.

I have never seen my monkies consume a plate of vegetables at such an amazing speed but they accomplished it with the sunflower spouts. Not only did the sprouts tasted especially fresh, I reckon a huge part of the satisfaction had to do with the monkies being able to reap and taste the vegetables that they had personally grown and harvested.

So it was no surprise that they kept bugging me to check if the other vegetables are ready to be harvested. 

I think it will probably take a few days more before we head back to the farm again. Already, this fabulous find in the midst of our concrete jungle is a place that everyone in the family cannot wait to return.

I love how the entire process is so simplified and idiot-proof. Even for those without any green fingers, as one will only need to sow the seeds and return to harvest. 20 trays at $50 per month rental means that you can rope friends with kids to chip in and share as well - an excellent bonding session for the family if you ask me. 

If you prefer something on a smaller scale, Urban Farm & Barn also sells mini home gardening kits where kids can plant their own seeds at home.

With the hospitable owner, Miss Ting Ting (front row) and her 2 part-time helpers

More importantly though, with many kids being more familiar with processed food than natural food these days, it is increasingly unfortunate that most of them have never seen a vegetable growing, or even genuinely believe that vegetables come from the supermarket. Teaching them how to garden means imparting an important lifeskill, one that would serve them well as they grow up.

Useful Details

Urban Farm & Barn
(by Pocket Greens)
Off Petir Road, Bukit Panjang
Tel: 6526 7226
Website: http://www.pocketgreens.com.sg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/urbanfarmbarn

How to get there:
1. Blk 201 Petir Road - Take Bus no. 966 and 700 and stop at Blk 202 Petir Road.  The flight of stairs behind Blk 201 leads to the farm. Just walk up and keep to the right side all the way. You'll see the farm as you descend.
2. Blk 210 Petir Road - At the end of the carpark, there is a service road leading to the top of the hill. Walk all the way up to the top and down slightly. You'll see the farm as you descend.

Opening Hours:
Mon: Closed
Tue - Thurs: 8.30am - 11.30am
​​Fri -Sun & Public Holidays: 3pm - 6pm

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