Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’
Christopher Dewolf’s Vice article takes a look at one farm in Hong Kong and its connection to wider currents about Hong Kong identity and self-sufficiency. Fascinating stuff.
I went to a banana farm to learn about growing fruit in Hong Kong. Instead I learned about democracy.
It started with a visit to Hamilton Street in Hong Kong’s densely-packed Yau Ma Tei district, where a friend introduced me to Tam Chi-kit, who was selling bananas from a folding table on the street. “He grows them himself,” explained my friend.
These were not the ubiquitous Cavendish bananas you find with a Del Monte or Chiquita sticker on them. They were girthy, thick-skinned dai ziu—literally “big bananas”—native to this part of Asia. You can find them in markets all over Hong Kong, along with a few other native varieties. Like many local bananas, Tam’s dai ziu don’t lend themselves well to mass production, so they’re grown on a family farm that has somehow managed to survive in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world.
Though the city is most famous for its thicket of skyscrapers—it has more high-rises than any other place in the world—most of its land area is undeveloped. Much of it is reserved for country parks, but large portions are former agricultural land that has been illegally converted into junkyards and storage facilities. More than 2,000 acres are owned by property developers biding their time until they can build. Farming isn’t easy in Hong Kong.
“Can I come visit?” I asked Tam. “Okay,” he replied. “We’ll make lunch.”
Tam meets me next to a concrete pagoda. The air hums with the sound of cicadas and a chorus of songbirds. As we walk to the farm, Tam points at wild banana trees growing by the road. “Look—bananas everywhere,” he says.
The farm isn’t quite what I expected. It’s a muddy acre of land that spills down a hill to the Sheung Yue River. There are banana trees, but also papayas, soursop and an abundance of herbs. Walking down a concrete path, past two metal gates, we arrive at a cluster of tin-roofed structures. Three elderly people emerge to greet us. There’s Uncle Chan, a gangly, bespectacled man with a toothy grin. Auntie Wong, dressed in a floral print shirt. And Uncle Wong, a stout, bald man with a pugnacious demeanour and a t-shirt commemorating the Umbrella Revolution, the student-led pro-democracy movement that occupied Hong Kong’s streets for 79 days in 2014. It quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary banana farm.
There’s a card catalogue at the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library that does more than help people look for books.
Instead, what people find inside can one day turn into everything from beans to watermelons.
It’s one branch of the Toronto Seed Library, where people can “borrow” seeds through a program aimed at bringing gardening to people who might not otherwise be able to dig in.
The city’s 22 branch network has been growing since 2012 and has dispensed at least 100,000 seed packets — many of them to new Canadians and people who might not otherwise be into gardening, like high-rise renters.
[. . .]
“Except where book libraries keep knowledge in the commons, seed libraries keep seeds part of the commons and accessible to everybody,” she said. “The idea is that, until very recently in history, you couldn’t buy seeds, everyone would just save and trade them amongst themselves.”