Listen to the sound of the stream, surround yourself by the alocasia on the bank, see the banana, bidens and the notorious Mile-a-minute-weed popping out on your way. That brings us to Gary's farm on Lamma Island —— Lok Yin Farm. This is the story of Gary and Corey.
Founder of Lok Yin Farm, Gary, and community farmer, Corey
Lok Yin Farm on Lamma Island
Gary was born and raised in Lamma Island. For many urbanites, Lamma Island is the destination of green and nature, but for Gary, he witnessed many farmland converted into housing purposes three to four decades ago since his childhood. Gary himself is not a born-to-be farmer either. He was raised to be an engineer. Since the birth of his son, Gary's interest towards agriculture escalated and started growing all kinds of vegetables at home. When his son entered a school that adopts Waldorf education, he was introduced to Biodynamic agriculture (BD). Movements of Waldorf education and Biodynamic agriculture were both initiated by Rudolf Steiner in 1920s, based on his research on Anthroposophy, a spiritual movement that focuses on the connection between human, animals, plants and all kind of things within the cosmo. It is considered an alternative agriculture method but is proliferating in wine making in the Europe.
"BD farming can produce crops look as 'perfect' as conventional cultivation. It is a matter of time"
Practically, BD agriculture shares a lot of common methods with organic farming, promising no chemical fertiliser and pesticides. But BD lays emphasis on soil health, thus also shares similarities with Permaculture. Because of its emphasis on human-universe system, BD agriculture can be super spiritual, treating agriculture almost like it is alchemy, which draws a lot of debate in this modern time where data and scientific prove is the only measurement. Gary explained that he was very skeptical when he was first introduced to BD agriculture too. For example, the cow horn manure method has given Gary a little culture shock. Due to the distinctive geographical condition of Lamma as an Island, the costs of bringing in fertiliser or other farming material onto the island is very high and inefficient, BD agriculture's ethos of Farm material fertilise farm offers what might be the only sustaining model for a farm within Lamma Island.
Gary, Corey and other members have been experimenting with composting, vermicomposting and other Biodynamic planting method at Lok Yin Farm
Flash back to two years ago, Gary started study group of BD agriculture with some friends. Now the group has grown into six core members, plus ten different groups of community farmers. Corey, who lives very close to Lok Yin Farm, is one of the community farmers who joined BD agriculture study group and is now practicing. Members of Lok Yin Farm practice on BD agricultural methods such as composting, vermicomposting, sowing according to the moon cycle, growing plant such as stinging nettle (urticaceae) as biodynamic farming preparations. Last year, they have had very good harvest, creating surplus which allowed them to start a community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme on Lamma Island and providing vegetables to some schools. They have also started saving seeds. Gary's aim is to work almost full time at Lok Yin Farm in 2024. Members are now preparing for the expansion to third phase reclaimation of farmland. His team is also planning on more BD agricultural workshop, as well as building up regional network with other BD organisations in Asia and China.
You may wonder, why insisting on BD agriculture method out of all the sustainable farming method?
Gary gives his answer, 'Maybe the question can be, why not BD farming? The result of BD farming is rather difficult to quantify, it might be the reason why it is not widespread until now. BD farming can produce crops look as 'perfect' as conventional cultivation. It is a matter of time. Lots of weapons during WWII were developed into pesticide and chemical fertiliser, which increased the harvest, but damaged the soil. BD farming emerged as a movement. It is about changing a person, and ripples out to bring changes to more people.'
Beet Clover No.3 is one of the popular varieties among farmers at Lok Yin Farm. Everyone loves its taste
Pumpkin Kaikai forming its fruit close to the river
What kind of challenges is your farm facing?
Gary：The weather in Hong Kong is very extreme. We experienced flood during the black rainstorm warning this year. We use stream water from the hill for irrigation. While we benefit from the stream, our land is rather wet, so leafy greens don't usually grow well here. We have a small green house here with a solar fan, but the ventilation still needs improvement, and sometimes you may find a mouse in the green house destroying our seedlings.
Which Clover varieties do you like the most?
Gary: We grew Sweetie Pie sweet pepper with great success last year —— we had too many! Sierra tomato and Luna tomato also offered good harvest. These are also varieties that are popular at community supported agriculture scheme. Our community farmers enjoy the taste of Beet Clover No.3 very much. Okra grows well even after the flood. The trellis for Kaikai pumpkin was destroyed due to the heavy rain, but the pumpkin itself is still thriving and producing fruit!
Hok Du Pakchoi seeds were saved and successfully regrow again this year. Gary and members are now trying to save seeds from Malabar Spinach