Friday, December 29, 2006

The staff tour of farmland Kranji was a novel way to begin our 2-day end-of-year workshop. Between dodging raindrops and puddles, I got to handle a live bullfrog (slimy but oddly odourless) and rubbed up the fur of a farm dog and cat along the way. Like my noisy, chatty companions, the animals were equally sociable.

Apart from learning that bullfrogs are monogamous, and new vocabulary like "aeroponics" and "agri-tainment", I was quite taken by the approach of the Kranji stakeholders to deal with their individual and collective problems operating farms in S'pore.

For example, we have farms in S'pore??? Where do we have space to have 1 farm, let alone the 170+ farms that are supposed to operate in the area? Aren't farms far away, inaccessible, dirty, smelly places that are nice to visit but don't exactly offer top career choices for our children?

With public perception as such, they don't get much support from either the market or even our public institutions. Each farm struggles to survive, and people being what they are, S'poreans in particular, the temptation must be great to conflict and compete the hell out of each other, neighbours being at each others' throats for scraps of resources all the time. We all know what that kind of life is like.

But the Kranji collective impresses me with its ability to cooperate with each other, leveraging on each other's strengths rather than exploiting one another's weaknesses. They rightly identify their problems as obstacles to overcome rather than target each other as the source of their woes.

And even more impressively, they rely most on their ideas: always finding new ways to do things better. Our farmers ain't hicks. They're scientists, engineers, craftsmen, artisans and designers; market-savvy, well-travelled and well-connected. They're angry and frustrated 'cos it's a tough line of work, but they're also hungry and unwilling to just keel over and die without a fight.

And what I love is their attitude that ideas are meant to be shared open-source, instead of selfishly hoarded. I've always believed that an idea is only as good as it is shared. The further it spreads, the better it must be. Ideas propagate one another, and I guess farmers are best positioned to understand this simple truth.

Respect the farmer, urbanite!

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