Rooftop farms flourish in space-starved HK
By Sam Reeves, AFP
August 15, 2012, 12:03 pm TWN
HONG KONG -- On the rooftop of a tower block above the hustle and bustle of teeming Hong Kong, dedicated growers tend to their organic crops in a vegetable garden.
Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and jungle-clad hills, earth-filled boxes are spread out on the roof of the 14-story building, where a wide variety of produce including cucumbers and potatoes are cultivated.
It is one of several such sites that have sprung up in Hong Kong's concrete jungle, as the appetite for organic produce grows and people seek ways to escape one of the most densely populated places on earth.
"I am happier eating what I grow rather than food I buy from supermarkets," said Melanie Lam, a 28-year-old nurse, who comes to the City Farm in the Quarry Bay district of Hong Kong's main island about twice a week.
"Compared to vegetables from the supermarket, vegetables that I plant are sweeter and fresher. It gives me a greater sense of satisfaction."
With most of the southern Chinese territory's 7 million people living in tower blocks and land prices sky-high, unused roofs are some of the few places in the most heavily populated areas for budding vegetable gardeners.
The money-obsessed city has been late to latch on to rooftop farming, which has been popular in cities such as London and New York for years.
While there are no official figures for the number of sites, as no license is needed to set one up, anecdotal evidence suggests their popularity is growing.
"I think urban farming is becoming more popular ... we have grown bigger in a short time," sad Osbert Lam, the founder of City Farm, which has about 100 regular gardeners two years after opening.
There are 400 planter boxes on the 10,000-square-foot (930-square-meter) rooftop available to rent for HK$150-200 (US$20-25) a month each.
"People who come to the farm are so happy — It's like a tranquillizer, it's a way out," added Lam.
In To Kwa Wan in the east of the Kowloon peninsula, one of the founders of another rooftop farm says the project has given a boost to the neglected neighborhood, which has poor transport links and a predominantly elderly population.