Rooftop garden a top spot for organic plan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2011, 12:00am


Sunny Chan Dart-sun knows how to feed his customers the freshest food in town; he grows his own vegetables on his cafe's rooftop.

The restaurateur uses old wine crates to grow rocket, rosemary, basil, tomato, pumpkins and a dozen other vegetables on the roof of the Slow Experience cafe in Wan Chai. Then he takes his produce into his tiny kitchen to prepare organic treats for customers.

Set next to a bookstore that sells mostly literature, Slow Experience is a 12-seater vegetarian cafe. A physics and linguistics graduate, Chan opened it earlier this year because he wanted to bring local organic food to busy city dwellers.

'We have plenty of organic farms in the New Territories, but not many people in Hong Kong are aware of this,' he said.

'Many middle-class people are happy to pay very high prices for imported organic foods in fancy supermarkets and we believe they would be equally happy to buy locally farmed organic vegetables if they just knew where to find them.'

Chan relies on local farms in Fanling and Yuen Long for most of his supplies. He now lives in Ma Shi Po, a village in Fanling, to be near the local farms, which supply his ingredients.

A typical day begins with collecting vegetables from local farmers. Chan then travels to the city with a cart full of fresh produce.

When he reaches his cafe, the chef and waiter will start preparing a five-course lunch menu. Preparation includes baking bread and making homemade pasta.

The cafe is making a small profit, allowing Chan to cover the basics. But money is not his main goal.

'If we can do it, we will help to expand an alternative economic system,' he said.

His next step is to learn how to plant a rooftop farm and he is off to Australia next month to undertake a short-term course on agriculture.