To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, An eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake
Last Sunday, we had an experience which kept us quite intrigued, not fully knowing what to expect and yet we walked away totally enriched at the end. What are we talking about?
You see, we learnt from our friend, CheekyMonkies about a farm tucked surreptitiously ‘on top of Bukit Panjang hill’ which allows families to plant their own veggies. While we are not unfamiliar with the concept of such farms but somewhere ‘on top of a hill’ knocked us off a little – as far as we know, there are no hills in Singapore except in Bukit Timah. Boy, how wrong we were!
As its name suggests, Urban Farm and Barn is, well…an urban farm carved out on a little hill, off Block 210, Petir Road. After meandering inside a typical HDB carpark and finding a lot for our car on a hot Sunday afternoon, we walked briskly up a cement-paved side road which led us right to the farm. Inside, we were welcomed by its friendly owner, Ms Eng who received us warmly and gave us a spontaneous tour of the farm.
Urban Farm and Barn is a joint collaboration with the North West Community Development Council, Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council, People’s Association and the RC. and situated among a plot of land set aside for residents to plant their own crops (Yes! In Singapore! ) Except here, families can ‘adopt’ vertical racks (for a nominal fee) to plant their ‘crops’. There’s an exciting range of specially imported seeds suitable for our climate to choose from: Romaine Lettuce, Kailan, Sunflowers, Alfalfa, Wheat Grass among others.
Types of seeds which are specially imported into Singapore by Urban Farm and Barn
The concept is simple and straight-forward: Go in, select your seeds and plant. You may buy the seeds and the soil from the farm then start planting right away on the planting trays provided. In case you are worried you do not have green fingers, no worries. There are staff on site to patiently guide you and your children. It’s fun to see entire families getting their hands dirtied, literally – adding fertilizers, scooping the soil, spreading them, sowing the seeds and watering. Once done, we moved our trays to the vertical shelves and let the automated watering system plus ample sunshine take care of the rest. Easy peasy!
There is an option to rent these vertical farm shelves for a small fee of $50 per month for free access to return anytime to check on and harvest your crops. It’s akin to having your own little garden plot to fulfill your gardening dream. What’s noteworthy is that all 40% of all proceeds actually go towards the North West Student Support Fund, a fund to help needy students residing in the North West District.
Needless to say, Dana and her friends had a blast that day despite the heat. Now, living in urbanized and high-rise Singapore, how rare it is to have parents and children plant and harvest something together while having fun doing it? Best of all, we get to relive the experience a week later when we return to harvest our crops! This educational experience also opens up possibilities for exploring fundamental Science concepts with our children.
Just like an unassuming seed, this urban farming experience, though seemingly simple, yielded a bountiful ‘harvest’ – rekindling our love for nature, excellent bonding time and precious memories for ours to keep. Not forgetting, we still have our organic crops waiting for us!
Tips for visiting Urban Farm and Barn:
1. This is an outdoor activity. Slap on sunblock, mozzie repellent and bring a cap if you need to.
2. Although the place does sell drinks at almost cost price, do bring your own supply of drinking water to stay hydrated.
3. Expect to devote at least 1.5 hours there if it is your first time planting. It is cooler to visit in the late afternoons after 4pm.
4. Set your GPS for Blk 210, Petir Road and park at the nearest HDB Carpark. You’ll see a cement-paved side road behind the Blk. Walk up the road and there’s a sign that reads ‘Urban Farm’ next to the RC sign.
5. This activity is suitable for children age 4 and up – as long as they are old enough to understand instruction, they are game for it.
6. To fully enjoy the experience, be prepared to get your hands dirtied but there is a tap to properly wash your hands after. The soil/compost are all organic by the way (non toxic).
7. Remember to take some time to walk around the hill to admire the scenery and other interesting wildlife around. We even spotted a troop of monkeys!
Urban Farm & Barn
Address: Bukit Panjang Hill (behind Blk 210 Petir Road Singapore 670210).
Telephone: 6526 7226
Mon: Closed. Tue – Thurs: 8.30am – 11.30am. Fri -Sun and PH: 3pm – 6pm
Vertical Racks Rental:
S$50 for 1 month (you’ll receive 20 trays for planting which you can share among friends/families). Compost (S$7), Fertilizer (S$3) and Seeds (S$6 per packet) sold separately. 40% of proceeds go to the North West Student Support Fund, a fund to help needy students residing in the North West District. Please bring cash.
How to get to the farm?
1. Blk 201 Petir Road – Take Bus no. 966 and 700 and stop at Blk 202 Petir Road. The flight of stairs behind Blk 201 leads to our farm. Just walk up and keep to the right side all the way. You’ll see the farm as you descend.
2. Blk 210 Petir Road – At the end of the carpark, there is a service road leading to the top of the hill. Walk all the way up to the top and down slightly. You will see the farm.