Community Gardens Sprouting on Rooftops in Hong Kong

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CNN has the story of a growing, but still small urban farming movement in Hong Kong. 

For just $ 15 per month, Lam rents out toolbox-sized planter boxes to businessmen, elderly couples and families alike, and even runs horticulture classes. He uses imported soil from Germany to fill his planters and lets the humid, subtropical climate do the rest.

Fifteen dollars a month seems pretty steep but Hong Kong does have some of the highest property values in the world.

I thought this comment regarding resistance to gardening was interesting:

Outside of convincing politicians, Chau said Hong Kongers themselves have historically been resistant to the idea of farming as a suitable pastime.

"It is the lowest of our traditional caste system. In traditional Chinese culture, if you're good at nothing else, you work on the farm," Chau said. "Also, Hong Kong is a very money-minded place… land is also very expensive in Hong Kong, so people don't spend time worrying about growing their own food."

America has its own version of this caste system story. The consensus opinion on the growth of the US economy is that advances in farming freed people up from working on the farm so they could apply themselves to other more GDP-enhancing activities. This chart tells the story of the movement out of farm work in the U.S.:

image from media.spokesman.com
China has its own version of this chart but relative to the American move away from the farm they are in 1850. This chart compares farm employment stats around the world and puts China at 47% in 1999.

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In countries that have moved dramatically away from the farm there are efforts in place to reconnect with land and food. My sense is that this, in large part, is what drives the local food movement, the interest in farmers' markets, CSAs, and rooftop gardens – even in Hong Kong. It's a kind of farming-deficit disorder. It may be awhile before perceptions in China change around farming but they are already shifting dramatically in North America.

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