Organic farming interns put to test

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am

For two months from June to August, Lorriane Lee Lok-yi woke up at 5am to work on a farm in Ceara, Brazil.

'In the morning, we hand-picked acerola,' Lee, a second-year student at Chinese University, says of her experiences there. Acerola is a cherry-like fruit from an American tropical shrub rich in vitamin C. 'Then we helped on the farm, weeding or planting seeds. We also helped in the kitchen, cooking meals for everyone.'

Steven Ma Kang-shun also worked on a farm - in Jalisco, Mexico. His duties were more taxing.

'We harvested broccoli by hand for a few hours every day and carried 20kg of broccoli on our way back. It also rained a lot and my feet got stuck in the deep soil. It was very demanding physically,' says the third-year student at Baptist University.

Both students were recruited to the Amway Nutrilite Organic Farming Internship Programme, co-organised by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre at Baptist University and Amway Hong Kong. Since 2007, the programme has provided local university students with hands-on organic farming experience in the Americas. This year, four students, including Steven and Lorraine, were selected. They received training in Amway's research and development centre in Los Angeles before heading to Mexico or Brazil.

'Applying for the internship was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'd never have travelled to Mexico by myself or experienced the whole farming process from planting to harvesting,' says Ma. 'When I tried my hand at mixing the organic fertilisers, I felt so in touch with nature.'

'When we see products on the market, we seldom think about the farmers.

'Having worked with the farmers in Mexico, I have a lot of respect for their work. They love their work and their community.'

The best part of their experience was their interaction with the locals, the students say.

'The people there love their environment so much that they are willing to protect it,' says Lee. 'I think that's the real motivation behind eco-living.'