How much would you forgo to live the sustainable life? By refusing to take plastic straws and single-use cutlery? Or by remembering to recycle the soft drink cans and mineral water bottles you can’t stop buying? Or even give up a successful advertising career and move back to Singapore to become a farmer?
The last option may sound extreme but Bjorn Low opted for it six years ago. Bjorn is the co-founder of Edible Garden City, an urban farming social enterprise that aims for sustainable food production in a country where 90 per cent of what is eaten is imported. Bjorn, 37, gave up a high-flying job in London to return home to Singapore, where he commits himself, his wife and two young sons to living sustainably and closer to nature.
It hasn’t always been easy, but today, through Edible Garden City, he designs and builds garden farms to supply herbs and vegetables to restaurants like the hip Open Farm Community in Dempsey Hill. His urban farms can be found in large open spaces like Hort Park, and smaller rooftop plots seen at Wheelock Place and Raffles City.
His passion not only produces leafy vegetables but also altruistic results. These green lungs in the city generate food as well as jobs for vulnerable individuals, including those with autism. Others also benefit from Edible Garden City’s programmes – from seniors and prison inmates to pre-dementia and psychiatric patients, as well as students with special needs, with each trained in farming techniques for therapeutic or employment purposes.
And that is because through his urban farms and gardens, Bjorn practises therapeutic horticulture and care farming. In other words, a patch of soil with plants is transformed into a healing space for the community. His altruistic efforts have not gone unnoticed. He is supported by a grant from the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise. He was also one of 11 nominees for the 2018 Singaporean of the Year Award, which honours extraordinary acts of goodwill, ingenuity or perseverance by those who have made a positive impact.
So when and why did this exemplary NSman decide to march down the road towards a consciousness for the environment? How are his urban farms making an impact on Singapore’s food needs? Bjorn shares his thoughts while reflecting on how Earth Day and World Water Day motivate a modern society to think about its future.