Now dig this: a new crop of organic farms and workshops
The time is ripe to get your hands dirty and sign up for one of the city's budding organic farming workshops
"It's all about reconnecting and reharmonising with nature," says Alex Hale from the HK Perma Club."People from all demographics join our group - all ages, all nationalities."
Hale spends most weekends digging away at the HK Perma Club's "office" hidden in a valley in Clear Water Bay. It's one of many farming groups to have sprouted in the city that promote the benefits of locally produced organic fruit and vegetables in a shift driven by consumers seeking tastier, more eco-friendly and fresher food.
As more than 95 per cent of Hong Kong's food is imported, it's no wonder people want to know where their food is coming from - and whether it's safe to eat. "People want an alternative to the concrete jungle lifestyle. They want an alternative to costly imported foods and they want to get involved and grow their own fresh organic food. This club gives people the opportunity to do all this," says Hale.
Here are our pick of the latest crop of workshops.
HK Perma Club
Those with budding green fingers can sink their hands into some soil at workshops hosted by the HK Perma Club, which uses ecological design principles to promote clean air, clean food and a healthy sustainable lifestyle.
Perma Club often hosts workshops for groups of up to 16 on weekends and can accommodate prearranged groups at other times. The workshops include compost making, recycling and upcycling, gardening, soil building, waste management and water management. "Pretty much all things permaculture and environmental," says Hale.
Time to grow
Add soil, a splash of water, some sunshine and a bit of know-how and that's the way eco group Time To Grow works to turn unused spaces in the city into a sustainable - and edible - landscape. The group's latest project is the urban farm atop the Bank of America Tower in Admiralty.
Covering 130 square metres, it is one of the largest in Hong Kong. If you want expert tips from experienced organic farmers, sign up for the next round of urban farmer courses that start on August 17.
There's also a mini-workshop at a fundraiser for the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation on August 3. Visit them at timetogrow.hk
Ark Eden is all about promoting Lantau as a world-class natural wonder that can teach valuable lessons to Hong Kong residents and visitors. "Green living is for everyone," says founder Jenny Quinton.
The organisation hosts loads of fun workshops, field trips and camps designed to provide a better understanding of the environment and the role everyone can play in conservation, preservation and sustainability. The Food Systems workshop focuses on fertilisers and pesticides and how to plant and transplant different seasonal vegetables.
Best of all, you get to pick, wash, cook and eat some of the produce. You'll also learn how to make compost and identify vegetables, crops and fruit trees. It hosts a range of eco-adventure camps for kids through July and August, including Into the Forest on August 15 where children can plant trees, work with wood and make delicious desserts with fruits from the trees. Visit them at arkedenonlantau.com
Other farm friends
Produce Green Foundation: this non-profit organisation has been spreading the green message since its inception in 1988. It set up the first organic farm in Hong Kong, and it hosts organic farming workshops, eco-tourism activities and slow food festivals. ( producegreen.org.hk tel: 2674 1190)
Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden: environmental education is one of its main goals and this is achieved through a wide range of programmes. On August 7 it will hold a Farmer Reskilling Course based on permaculture principles. It looks at organic waste recovery and how to grow crops according to nature's rhythm. Kadoorie Farm also organises the farmers' market at Central Ferry Pier 7 every Sunday. Events include the Good Life Sundays Workshop, which is about seasonal crops, festival foods and the wisdom behind sustainable living. On July 27, there's an aquaponics workshop at HK$50 per person. kfbg.org.hk tel: 2483 7191)
HK Farm: rooftop farming and the benefits of locally produced food are the messages behind this organisation. Check out its fun workshops that include urban beekeeping, and lessons in making planters. hkfarm.org
City Farm: iolds organic urban farming classes for everyone from beginners to advanced level. It also rents out rooftop gardens. cityfarm.hk
Nature's Harvest: promotes sustainable organic farming by connecting people with their local food system and nature. Groups can sign up for weekend organic farming workshops while individuals can join the walk-in programme - show up between 8am-5pm, any day of the week and learn about potted plants and DIY herbal teas. naturesharvest.com.hk tel: 2723 3126)
Microgardening might be the perfect solution for Hong Kong's compact living spaces
In a city where space is a precious commodity, having your own garden is a luxury few can afford. That's where a microgarden can fill a small but vital gap. "There are three main things preventing people from growing their own food: knowing how to grow, where to grow and having the time and energy to grow," says Max Wong of The Green Patch, a Hong Kong-based group that promotes microgardens.
These are pretty much what they sound like — organic gardens of vege, herbs and flowers grown in bio-intense conditions in compact spaces.
The Green Patch gardens offer a simple solution to the city's lack of land for growing food and their boxes (left) can be tailor-made for your space or you buy one off the shelf. The Green Patch has long been on its greening mission for Hong Kong, through various projects including the installation of microgardens in schools, care homes, hostels and even a large church roof.
If you're looking for some gardening tips, check out the group's Growing Food in the City, a comprehensive and illustrated guide to microgardening in Hong Kong (available at Dymocks Books, Swindon Books in Tsim Sha Tsui and Kelly & Walsh in Pacific Place). In August, it will publish a follow-up book My Garden - My Friend, a collection of short stories and poems written by microgardening students. thegreenpatch.hk