Monday, August 11, 2008

Bollywood Veges - Food_drink - - International Design Interiors Fashion Travel

Bollywood Veges - Food_drink
Bollywood Veggies.

Food & Drink
by Daven Wu

As part of our 'Agricool' feature in W*102, we took in some of the world's more unusual farming practices. Here we see an entrepreneurial lady making agricultural inroads in Singapore. See Wallpaper* issue 102 for an insight into Manhattan rooftop beekeeping, subterranean paddy fileds in Tokyo and vegetable patches amidst the rubble of inner city Chicago...

One doesn’t immediately associate Singapore with farming, planet-friendly vegetables and fruit picking. But it’s precisely this impression that Ivy Singh-Lim is so keen to correct. ‘When you say Singapore, most people think of high-tech, but I really think every country needs a countryside to de-stress and chill in,’ she says as she surveys Bollywood Veges, her 10-acre farm in Kranji. A brisk five-minute drive from the next town centre, it’s a pastoral haven in an almost entirely urban island, punctuated by the barks of her fourteen dogs (‘Mostly strays,’ she says).

The area, in the north-west of the island, has an agricultural history; its farmers reared everything from vegetables to livestock such as goats, pigs, quails and even crocodiles. Few, except farmers and suppliers, ever ventured out here. That is until Singh-Lim and her husband Lim Ho Seng, the former CEO of the largest co-operative supermarket chain in Singapore, decided to retire here six years ago.

Named for the more exotic Indian vegetables grown on the farm, Bollywood Veges took two years to set up. Today, the grounds are sprinkled with chilli bushes, cashew trees, tapioca, blue ginger shrubs, banana stands and even coffee trees. ‘We’re completely planet-friendly,’ Singh-Lim says, ‘Because of the quality of Singapore’s air and water, technically, we can’t be organic, but we don’t use chemical fertilisers, pesticides or growth hormones.’

But what makes Bollywood Veges stand out from the surrounding farms is the constant stream of visitors (tourists and locals) that mill through, plucking vegetables, tasting fruits picked straight off the trees. Singh-Lim explains that unless one practices high-yield farming like the Israelis, it’s difficult to make a living on small lots like hers. ‘So we decided to be a show farm. We were one of the first to go into eco-tourism. Our proximity to the mangrove swamps and bird sanctuaries make us a convenient pit stop for visitors.’

An unabashed social activist, Singh-Lim has lobbied hard for farmers like herself to be allowed to set up B&Bs and restaurants. She rounded up her neighbours to form the Kranji Countryside Association, which has two main objectives: one is to produce food for the local market. The other is to provide a venue for Singaporeans, especially children, to acquaint themselves with nature. ‘Can you believe that some of them have never seen a snail or a tadpole?’ Singh-Lim asks.

To supplement the farm’s income, Singh-Lim runs a bijou restaurant Poison Ivy that serves Indian curries, and Chinese and western meals. In the pipeline is a cooking museum and culinary school run by her adopted daughter, a trained Cordon Bleu chef. By any yardstick, it’s a relaxed lifestyle and one that Singh-Lim is keen to promote. ‘Singapore is a global city, yes, but our children cannot grow up in a vacuum. We’ve got to make sure that the countryside is always available to them.’ Even if that countryside is only five minutes away.
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