Time to Grow’s Samantha Woods Talks Urban Farming!
Today we’re interviewing the lovely Samantha Woods, a part of the Grassroots Pantry team who also works for a new urban farming social enterprise called Time to Grow Urban Farming! This Saturday, Grassroots Pantry and Time to Grow are hosting an urban farming/gardening workshop on the Grassroots Pantry rooftop garden (221 Queens Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun) from 3pm to 5pm. The cost is $50 per adult and $25 per child, and includes a seedling for each participant. Please call 2873 3353 or email email@example.com to RSVP. Our thanks to Sam for her help at the restaurant, and for her wonderful work with Time to Grow!!
Hi Sam! Tell us about yourself!
I am a Hong Kong-er at heart and have spent most of my life in this vibrant city! After graduating with degree in Natural Sciences from Durham University (UK), my search for a sustainability-related job took me to Beijing, where I worked for an environmental NGO and then a boutique travel company. At that time, opportunities in the ‘green’ space here in Hong Kong were few and far between, but now, six years down the road, it’s exciting to see that the environment is becoming an increasing priority for HK people. I recently moved home and am eager to contribute to this movement towards a more sustainable Hong Kong. In addition to working at GP, I am also helping to set up a social enterprise called Time To Grow.
We’re so happy that people are more aware and excited about sustainability too, and that you’re helping to push the urban farming movement forward here in HK. Can you tell us more about Time to Grow?
Time To Grow (TTG) is a social enterprise that aims to improve access to safe, healthy, organic food produced in Hong Kong by: (1) setting up bespoke urban farms for individuals, businesses & schools; and (2) educating and engaging communities in the fun of growing.
TTG was founded by people from a range of different backgrounds – from design, to engineering, to social work, and of course farming – but we are united by our passion for organic food and sustainable living.
Great! And what can you tell us about the state of urban farming in HK? Why is this something that should be important to all of us?
The concept of urban farming is not new; in the West, it is a popular way to produce food that is free of chemicals, closer to the consumers (thereby reducing the carbon footprint) and making better use of otherwise empty spaces. In developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico, it also helps to feed rapidly growing populations.
Hong Kong produces almost none of its own food, and relies, in large part, on Mainland China (Guangdong Province in particular) for fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. As a result of recent food safety issues, HK people are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from, and whether it is safe to feed their families. This has led to a growing interest in organic food, local food and urban farming.
Hong Kong also produces 3000 tonnes of food waste every day! Most of this goes into landfills. I think urban farming will help consumers understand how food is produced, so that we can appreciate just how much time, effort and resources go into producing each item. I’m as guilty as the next person of just throwing away a bruised or blackened banana, for example, but now, when I think about the effort the farmer made to grow it, the months spent, the fossil fuels burnt to fly it over from the Philippines, the plastic packaging wrapped around it…I might reconsider and make it into a banana bread, or a smoothie, or just not buy so many next time.
I think one of the main hurdles we’ve had to overcome is the prevalent mindset that Hong Kong is short of space, and that it’s impossible for ordinary people to grow anything at home…the general response is ‘it’s a nice idea, but not applicable to Hong Kong.’ I disagree. I live in a tiny flat in an old building in Wan Chai surrounded by other buildings. I don’t have a rooftop, balcony or even much of a window ledge (about 5cm), but I am still growing chillies, beetroot, salad veggies, strawberries and herbs! When I walk around Hong Kong now, I am always noticing unused public space that could be fit for growing.
Such important truths to impress upon people - that we need to be aware of and be responsible for producing our own food, and that almost any space can be used to grow fresh produce! How were you introduced to GP and what made you want to work here?
I read about GP in a magazine article. Sustainability and scrumptious home-made food – I just had to get involved. Think there had even been a mention of a roof garden in there…haha. Luckily, you were hiring.
We’re so happy you joined us. If you would, tell us a little about your experience of working here!
GP is a great place to work. It’s cosy and off the beaten track, so it takes a bit of effort to get there – the people who make it, are generally curious eaters, vegetarians or eco-conscious, and all very excited to be trying something new. Many even become regulars – a testament to Peggy’s cooking!
Last week we met a Japanese couple who were visiting Hong Kong. Their daughter works for an airline, so they were based out in Tung Chung. But they had read about GP on a Japanese blog and despite speaking little English (and no Cantonese), they made it all the way to Sai Ying Pun armed with their ipads and photos of the recommended dishes. I was super impressed!
Lovely! We’re so lucky to have so much support and love from the community, and to have guests who really care about the quality of their food and its ingredients. What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
I’m working my way through the menu, but so far I like the dal and the blueberry cheesecake. Mmm…!
Yum! Good choices. Thanks so much, Sam! We can’t wait to learn more about growing our own food at the Saturday’s Time to Grow workshop!