A green group's organic farming programme has helped revive Hong Kong's only large-scale patch of wetland farmland. The programme has not only helped farmers in Long Valley, Sheung Shui, to boost their incomes but also has attracted many water birds that had left when struggling farmers moved out and stopped irrigating the area. Under the government-funded programme, led by the Conservancy Association, farmers were encouraged to plant organic rice and vegetables, including watercress, water spinach and water chestnuts. So far about 60,000 sq ft of wetland - saved from being bisected by the KCR Lok Ma Chau spur line after an epic court battle - has been turned over to organic farming. 'This place has already returned to its original appearance after being abandoned as wasteland for years,' the group's senior project officer, Katie Chick Hiu-lai, said. But she said the scheme had been difficult to get started as most farmers knew little about organic farming. 'They were afraid that it would be hard to make money from organic vegetables, which usually take longer to grow and are much more expensive,' Ms Chick said. Chan Shue, 54, one of the first four farmers on the programme, said he had given up farming because it was hard to make ends meet. Encouraged by the association, he returned to his farm a year ago. To his surprise, his watercress and water spinach were so popular at the Tai Wo market, his goods were often snapped up within a couple of hours, despite costing twice as much as other vegetables. 'It really boosted my confidence in planting organic vegetables. I felt that people really appreciated what I planted,' he said. To help farmers further expand the market, the association is trying to establish a direct-sale network with the North District Hospital. All the hospital's 1,500 staff yesterday were invited to taste soup and other dishes made from the organic vegetables. They were told that if there was enough interest they would be able to order organic vegetables from Long Valley online. North District councillor Hau Kam-lam, who was brought up in Long Valley, was one of the scheme's promoters. 'I am so happy to see this place keep its characteristics as a wetland,' he said. 'This can be a model for other local farms that are seeking benefits both for farmers and the environment.'