GINGER WATER may be a more environmentally friendly substitute for some chemicals, about 100 young farmers from the Organic Farming Competition 2003 have discovered. They come from eight primary and secondary schools in Tung Chung, and are taking part in a competition organised by the Airport Authority. The six-month event aims to foster awareness of organic farming. Last week, it was harvest time. The heaviest vegetable was produced by Po On Commercial Association Wan Ho Kan Primary School. It was a 5.2kg brassica caulorapa. Po Leung Kuk Mrs Ma Kam Ming - Cheung Fook Sien College came up with the longest vegetable - a 3.23-metre water spinach. They were awarded a medal and $1,000 worth of book vouchers. In February, each school received a plot of land near the airport terminal in which to plant vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, potato and chilli. Students were given sole responsibility for their plants. Fertiliser provided during the competition was chemical-free and was recycled from unused food, which was collected from passenger terminal restaurants daily and placed in a special waste eliminator and composing units. Apart from using environmentally friendly fertiliser, their pesticide was also chemical-free. They planted mint and marigolds as a means of pest control. 'We also use ginger water or pepper water to replace the chemical pesticides,' said Stephy Ling Cheok-yin, a primary six student from HKFEW Wong Cho Bau School, which submitted the best report on the project. The city-born participants learned not only about organic farming, but farming itself. 'Before I hadn't thought of farming or planting by myself, but I'm happy because I can now,' said Karen Wong Lai-chi, Stephy's teammate. 'We will put some flowers on our desks - even if we can't plant them,' said Sally Chan Sau-loh, another member of the team. The campaign also managed to turn some, but not all, of the young farmers into confirmed vegetable-lovers. 'I still don't like eating vegetables. They're tasteless,' said Sally, despite her new appreciation of farming techniques. 'I usually leave the vegetables on my plate after finishing a meal.' Another teammate, Alison Lai Ka-ki added: 'We love eating the vegetables we plant because they're bigger and fresher. I feel healthier after I've eaten them.' Stephy found her farming efforts were a big hit at home. 'My sister ate the food up and didn't leave any for me.'