Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Organic-Hungry Hong Kong, Corn as High as an Elevator’s Climb

Kimbo Chan knows all about the food scandals in China: the formaldehyde that is sometimes sprayed on Chinese cabbages, the melamine in the milk and the imitation soy sauce made from hair clippings. That is why he is growing vegetables on a rooftop high above the crowded streets of Hong Kong.

“Some mainland Chinese farms even buy industrial chemicals to use on their crops,” Mr. Chan said. “Chemicals not meant for agricultural uses at all.” 

As millions of Hong Kong consumers grow increasingly worried about the purity and safety of the fruits, vegetables, meats and processed foods coming in from mainland China, more of them are striking out on their own by tending tiny plots on rooftops, on balconies and in far-flung, untouched corners of highly urbanized Hong Kong. 
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Organic food stores are opening across the city, and there is growing demand in the markets for organic produce despite its higher prices. There are about 100 certified organic farms in Hong Kong. Seven years ago, there were none.

There is no official count of rooftop farms in Hong Kong, but they are clearly part of an international trend. New York has many commercialized rooftop farms established by companies like Gotham Greens, Bright Farms and Brooklyn Grange. In Berlin, an industrial-size rooftop vegetable and fish farm is in the pipeline. In Tokyo, a farm called Pasona O2 takes urban farming a step further: Vegetables are grown not only on roofs, but also in what was an underground bank vault.

With 7.1 million people in one of the most densely populated cities on earth, Hong Kong has little farmland and almost no agricultural sector. The territory imports more than 90 percent of its food. Hong Kong is hooked on vegetables, and 92 percent of its supply comes from mainland China.
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Land is one of Hong Kong’s problems, of course. There is not very much of it, and only 1.6 percent is farmed....

A government proposal to develop the New Territories threatens to remove about 242 acres of farmland, according to a joint statement issued by green groups. This accounts for about 13 percent of Hong Kong’s active farmland, they said.

Some urban farmers find the effort worth it. It cost Mr. Lam about 500,000 Hong Kong dollars, or roughly $65,000, to set up City Farm, including all farming materials, an office, piping and wiring. And the whole operation can be easily moved. 

“It’s a mobile farm,” he said. “I can have the farm here today, and move it elsewhere tomorrow.” Fourteen stories above the city’s urban din, on a rooftop the size of a couple of basketball courts, City Farm flourishes with an impressive array of organic vegetables....
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By Mary Hui
FOR FULL STORY GO TO: http://tinyurl.com/8k65uhf
The New York Times www.NYTimes.com
October 3, 2012

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