Our Garden City: 5 minutes with Bollywood Veggie’s Ivy Singh
The charismatic 71-year-old has been a strong advocate for local agriculture, and has shown no signs of stopping her passions.
While the Kranji Countryside has a fair collection of farms in the area, they were never really considered as a destination to visit by Singaporeans. That all changed in 2005 however, when a collection of farmers campaigned for the inclusion of recreational and F&B spaces within their farms, and the Kranji Countryside Association was formed. Ivy Singh, founder of Bollywood Veggies, was among these visionaries; she now continues to run her 10 acre land with all the passion she can muster, and is a favourite among the regulars at Bollywood Veggies.
You used to be the president of the Kranji Countryside Association. What did you envision for the farms when the group was first formed?
My goal was to push farming into the national spotlight, to no longer be a background player in Singapore’s food industry. I certainly had lofty ideals; I wanted us to be sustainable, to provide diverse employment for differently-abled people, and to provide solace to city-weary folk. I was heavily inspired by my frequent trips to Perth and the Margaret River, which is full of smallholder farms that have very strong branding and agri-tourism. It’s what our farming scene should be like. By opening our doors to education and tourism, we can truly be a treasured part of our national food landscape.
Many have mentioned the kampung vibe of Bollywood Veggies. Was this intentional?
Of course! I was born in 1949, so it’s only natural. I lived in a very large household, which actually had servants under our care. As a child, we played with all the other children. Discrimination was never in our wiring, no matter which religion, race or social background. Similarly, my farm can be considered a utopian paradise. Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, everyone who works with me is treated equally. We are all warriors in our fight for sustainability, and working hard together really brings us together as a unit.
What are some of your favourite plants to grow?
Bananas actually; Bollywood Veggies is Singapore’s largest producer of bananas! We have a ton of varietals that are growing here, more than the common ones that you usually find in markets around the country. It’s a big part of our educational tours on our farm. Currently, some of our more interesting varietals include the Praying Hands Banana and the Thousand Finger Banana. The former is named as the bunches resemble hands clasped in prayer, and are very sweet and delicious, while the latter produces extremely tiny fruits that are reserved for the birds and insects that frequent our farm.
Tell us more about the Bolly Jolly Farmers’ Market.
We first started that in 2013 as our customers wanted more things they could bring home. We took inspiration from the Kranji Countryside Association’s quarterly farmers’ market, which had over 50 vendors. We decided to have a smaller version that could be held every week. The more intimate setting allowed our guests to meet the farmers and learn about the produce they were selling. I wanted the farmers’ market to be a launch pad for small businesses and enterprises.
How can Singaporeans support your work now, especially with the current situation?
Our Kampong Earth Shop and Poison Ivy Bistro are still open through this period, and we offer takeaway and delivery options. We’ve got wholesale seasonal veggies, freshly baked goods, home-made condiments and our new micro-farming activity kit ($12) on offer right now. For the bistro, we are including island-wide delivery for our bento boxes and famous food platters.
100 Neo Tiew Road. Tel: 6898 5001. Online: bollywoodveggies.com.sg