Road Test: Lantau farm educates children about the environment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 10:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 10:50am

My friend and I decided it was time to go back to nature at the Dragontail Farm in Mui Wo. This small farm on Lantau grows affordable organic food while promoting a more sustainable way of life.

With seven children in tow, aged between two and nine, we caught the 3M bus from Tung Chung MTR station to Mui Wo. The farm is a 20-minute walk from Mui Wo Market and at least a 25-minute walk from the ferry pier. The walk is stroller friendly, however, and takes you through villages in the foothills.

The activities involved the children in the running of the farm
Rebecca tomasis

Dragontail is run and managed by Donald Latter, who led our tour and the educational activities that filled the morning. At first my friend and I wondered how the farm would keep seven city kids entertained. We needn't have worried. The children moved enthusiastically through the activities and, inspired by everything growing around them, couldn't stop asking questions.

The farm grows vegetables and herbs for delivery, and the children wandered happily between rows of broccoli, tomatoes and dill. They were particularly taken by the pile of compost and took delight at the refuse that could be added: egg shells, yes; wet tissues, no. They were even more taken with the piles of manure that had been collected from a herd of cows.

This was farming first hand. We loved how the activities involved the children in the running of the farm. They weren't doing it to learn, but to help.

They started by turning over beds of soil, and planted seeds for beans and alfalfa plants that would, in turn, improve soil quality. They had to get on their hands and knees, trowels in hand, and work the soil before planting and watering the seeds. I would recommend old clothes and shoes.

The children then had to make scarecrows to guard the seed beds. It was harder than it looked, with a busy 30 minutes filled with huffing and puffing to stuff old clothes with straw, and arranging wigs and hats to make the funniest looking scarecrow.

A quick snack later - don't forget to bring your own and some water because neither is easily found outside of Mui Wo - and the children set off on a treasure hunt. Under Latter's patient guidance they were encouraged to seek out wildflowers and leaves to create their own artwork. The group were encouraged to take only wildflowers, and only if they were growing together in pairs.

There was something special about watching them explore the farm, finding delight in brightly coloured flowers or an odd-shaped leaf.

While my three-year-old covered his page with glue and dumped his collection onto it, the older children got more creative, using flowers and leaves to create paper-based gardens. If we had tried this at home, it would have been attempted half-heartedly as I stood over them and supervised. At Dragontail, the children responded positively.

The next activity saw the children set off to try their luck at fishing with nets in a small mountain stream. Several tiny fish and a freshwater shrimp later, some of the more adventurous took off their shoes and socks and were paddling in the water.

We finished the visit with a peek inside one of the farm's beehives. The children observed the bees on the honeycomb at a safe distance, while Latter went to work.

Verdict: Our three hours on the farm flew by. We were waving goodbye before we knew it.

We couldn't help but be taken with our time at Dragontail. My companion and I loved the hands-on activities and how engaged the children were.

Until children can witness something firsthand, they don't always understand its relevance. We loved that the children saw and, importantly, experienced how important it is to respect the earth.

Dragontail Farm also offers activities for schools and can host birthday parties. Activities cost HK$30 an hour per child.

Dragontail Farm, 145 Luk Tei Tong, Mui Wo, Lantau, tel: 5167 2174,