Saturday, November 3, 2007

Realisation - One Day Organic Tour

In the early morning, 38 participants gathered outside Outram Park MRT Station, awaiting to set off at 8am sharp. The participants who had arrived first waited patiently in the coach while the volunteers took attendance and gave out administrative forms. While everyone was enjoying the organic bun breakfast provided, our tour guide, Qi Yao, told us, “Actually, there are currently no
farms in Singapore that are 100% organic.” Nobody appeared surprised by that, perhaps because everyone recognized the fact that Singapore was a concrete jungle. “To be healthy, one must first learn not to be too attached.” He suggested that we bring with us a sense of anticipation to go explore how Singaporean farmers try their best to produce organic food on lands that have already been contaminated and in the face of various limited conditions.

The first stop was “Oh Chin Huat Herbal Farm”. The owner used hydroponics to produce crops on a large scale. An experienced young man working there brought us to a small garden and introduced to us the various types of herbs and spices, their characteristics, specific uses and effects. Besides getting to touch, smell and taste the herbs and spices, everyone also got to see for themselves what some of the plants that were familiar to them looked like. The activity that received the utmost attention was the quiz that came with prizes in the form of potted herbs, spices and ornamental plants, given out to participants who had provided the correct answers. Before leaving, everyone also received two packets of hydroponics vegetables as a gift.

Next, after passing the luscious forested area of a reservoir, we arrived at “Green Circle Eco Farm”. The owner, Weng Li Zhu, started by giving everyone a talk on the crisis of mankind brought about by the extensive use of pesticides and chemicals after the Second World War. Then, under the scorching sun, she and her husband took us through a tour of their farmland, separately explaining to us in detail in Mandarin and English, “The method of cultivation by nature”. The wisdom and selflessness of the organic farmers left us with a sense of admiration for them.

On the way to lunch, Qi Yao shared with us some tips on vegetarianism. He also explained the various classifications of food, ranging from high-energy organic meals to toxic, acidic food that caused illnesses, like fast food and meat. Qi Yao encouraged us to support organic and vegetarian food for the sake of our health and the future. When the demand for meat continually increased, more land would be used to rear animals and more subsidies would go towards reducing the price of meat. As a result in the future, the quantity of healthy organic and vegetarian food produced would drop and they would become more expensive.

Very soon, we arrived at an organic restaurant in Tanjong Pagar. Lunch was a unique and colourful array of organic food that had been carefully prepared to preserve their nutritional value. The restaurant owner also explained to us how MSG could cause harm to our nerve system. Excessive MSG intake had resulted in many youngsters having a poor memory, bad temperament and depression, etc.

After lunch, those of us who liked shopping for health food were treated to a pleasant surprise at “Organic Paradise” in Chinatown. There was a wide variety of organic daily necessities, like soap, shampoo, dish-cleaner, etc that were biodegradable andenvironmentally-friendly! Besides us, customers of other races and foreigners formed part of the long queue at the cashier.

Carrying all our “booties”, we then boarded the coach happily and headed to our next destination, “Yes Natural” in Geylang. The person in charge introduced us to Venerable Ri Chang from Taiwan and told us how he had in the early days influenced others in the development of health food. We got to understand the challenges faced by the developers and marketers of organic products and how they had managed to overcome all kinds of difficulty because of their firm belief in taking care of the people’s health.

Our 1-Day Organic Tour ended with a sumptuous dinner at LivinGreens Organic Vegan Restaurant. I had initially thought that lunch was already the best meal in the universe, but who would have expected dinner to be even better with their exquisite and diverse dishes. The child waiters and waitresses who were helping to serve the food were like walking advertisements for vegetarianism, with their healthy-looking faces and bright, intelligent eyes.

Hopefully, after this tour and hearing about the concept of holistic healthcare from Qi Yao, more people can start paying more attention to the health of their body, mind and spirit. If nobody responds to the warning bell sounded, can we in the near future still find plants as they appear in nature here? Can we still get to savour food that is pure and clean and maintain our original good health?



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