Our Garden City: 5 minutes with Edible Garden City’s Bjorn Low
The 39-year-old started the social enterprise, which is dedicated to community-centric agriculture, in 2012.
Local agricultural producers, organic or otherwise, have never truly been in the spotlight. Sometimes, however, it takes a true visionary. Enter Bjorn Low, executive director of Edible Garden City. With a passion for reconnecting to nature through food, Edible Garden City has since grown into a fully fledged closed-loop farming model that supplies a multitude of restaurants, hotels, and communities.
When Edible Garden City first launched, what was its purpose?
We saw a lot of under-utilised spaces in our urban landscape; Singapore may not have much land space, but we do have a lot of vertical space. Through edible landscaping, or foodscaping, we sought to convert many of these into green community spaces that could enhance our self sufficiency. We’ve since ‘terraformed’ a whole host of malls, offices, hotels, schools, and residential buildings.
Is organic food truly better than regular produce?
It isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. We ourselves are not organically certified, we are committed to growing food without pesticides and with natural methods. It was never fully our intention; instead, we want to focus on getting the public acquainted with the farmers that produce their food, to see how powerful their philosophy and way of growing is.
What are some of these organic philosophies that you’ve adopted?
I learnt a lot from my time working in organic farms in Europe, where everything is raised in a natural and environmentally conscious way. For instance, zero waste farming is a big practice, and composting takes up a large portion of that. At EGC, we adopt 3 types of composting: black soldier fly composting, vermi-composting and traditional composting. These processes help us turn our plant and food waste into nutrition for our plants.
Tell us more about the plants that EGC grows.
We grow a variety of microgreens, garden produce and mushrooms that we supply to a list of 60 restaurants regularly. They include Noka, Tippling Club, Labyrinth, Stellar at 1 Altitude, and most importantly, Open Farm Community. It’s our collaboration with Spa Esprit Group, and it’s a pure joy working with the culinary team led by chef Oliver Truesdale-Jutras. He is often the first person we approach when we are experimenting with new types of crops, or when we are looking for feedback.
Some examples of the produce that we grow include bronze fennel, micro basil, mustard frills, nasturtiums, butterfly oxalis, cranberry hibiscus, Mexican tarragon and dino kale.
Community is a big part of EGC’s mantra. How is that upheld within your farms?
Back in Europe, community was a big part of the day-to-day of farm life; people from all ages and walks of life would gather to the local farms to help and learn, much like a village. This was what I wanted to capture with our Queenstown Farm, aptly named The Citizen Farm. It’s here where we can truly support our fellow farmers and gardeners, through community outreach programmes like workshops and volunteer sessions. We also make it a point to hire from marginalised communities, including former students from Pathlight School, to help engage them in therapeutic horticulture.
How else can Singaporeans support your work now, especially with the current situation?
We are offering a weekly subscription veggie box called the Citizen Box, which contains sustainably grown, pesticide-free produce that can be delivered right to your doorstep. We are also launching seed starting kits for beginner home gardeners looking at starting a new green habit – you can even supplement that with our home-based learning series on our social media platforms.
60 Jalan Penjara. Tel: 8817 4054. Online: ediblegardencity.com