A fair and circular food system for all
Agriculture + Neighbourhood = Agrihood
This vision is a regenerative agrihood, where neighbourhoods are built around food forests or food growing gardens, reducing the distance between the source of food to who it is providing nourishment for. At the same time, with the source of food at the heart of each neighbourhood, parts of this edible garden will also serve as a living classroom and community gathering space where people learn and spend time together. Residents in this agrihood can also be the ones working on this edible farm, creating more social connections and cohesion as a local community living in proximity. Well-being and connection to nature is approached holistically, where the farm and food forest are also spaces where nourishment for mental, emotional, social and spiritual health can be found.
2015: We’re born!
Foodscape Collective is born from the dreams of four early acquaintances in a little shophouse on Rowell Road. Our first attempt at crowdsourcing data about food turns into a map of really local home gardens. Explore it here: tiny.cc/foodscapecollective.
2016: We begin holding swapping booths for seeds and knowledge at farmers’ markets, and our visits draw some attention and a journalist joins us!
2017: We are invited to take part in the Ideas Fest at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Arts, and co-create a workshop on food, art and sustainability in collaboration with Lucy Orta of Studio Orta. We moderate a panel on food waste and create a food-to-compost activity room for the Singapore Eco Film Fest! By now, our internal archive of garden visits includes pictures and practices from 81 gardens. Also, some members of the community begin dumpster diving, which later becomes a mainstream news phenomenon.
2018: We come into our own.
We participate in a dialogue session for civil society and NGOs with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), marking the start of the Year of Climate Action. We begin a one-year programme at the Singapore Land Authority’s GeoWorks, joining their geospatial community of start-ups. In response to the government parceling out more land for food production, we send a letter to MEWR, calling for considerations to diversify food growing methods with long term vision of regenerative practices. We begin to receive and offer more talks and workshops at schools and organizations. We collaborate with Bold at Work as studio masters, co-host a panel with Green Drinks, think about the concept of food security with our friend Abhishek Bajaj, begin ideation of a community-inspired publication, co-hosted a talk on agroforestry with the All-Green Learning Centre (Khao Yai, Thailand), and began a series of regional explorations – including a retreat to the Garden of L.E.A.H.. The bonding and visioning exercises of this 2 weeks retreat give birth to the current vision and mission of Foodscape Collective, with the idea of an agrihood as the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
We participate in the Launch of the Year of Zero Waste with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, where we share our vision of a circular food system. Our one-year programme at GeoWorks offers us a working space to meet and consolidate for the first time. It exposes us to other start-ups, and we begin to consider what it could mean for Foodscape Collective to integrate its community focus with an efficient and financially sustainable business model. We begin to learn from a range of models including Enspiral, in New Zealand. We experiment with design research with our community members, and with creating and designing an app for compost and food waste. We create and pilot a food education curriculum, and register the first Foodscape Venture Network entity, ‘Food Citizen’ to support the work of community members in food education towards financial sustainability.
We begin to define Foodscape Collective as an ecosystem, growing into a network that connects the community and its ground-up, commercial arms. With support from NParks, the Biodiverse Edible Garden at Jurong Central Park that started in late 2019, begins to take off with more local residents from the neighbourhood joining the community garden. The Soil Regeneration Project forms a team and begins work on curriculum and research methodology to create a capacity-building programme with community gardens and schools. Project Black Gold is awarded a grant from OCBC for deeper engagement with communities in composting.
The Backstory of Foodscape Collective, and Beyond.
Founded in 2015, Foodscape Collective saw four friends with a great interest and curiosity about Singapore’s local food system come together for casual garden visits and conversations about food. Over many eclectic meals, organizing many hosting community garden visits, seed and seedling exchanges in farmers’ markets, events, exhibitions, educational talks and research projects, the Foodscape Collective has grown over the past 3 years into a community of over 20 active members and more than 3000 followers on our Facebook group page.
During this time, we have observed, while working with the community, a growing interest to actively participate in the food system, beyond passive consumption. With the intention to expand on the work done so far, we are now transiting into the next phase of the collective’s growth. With Foodscape 2.0, we are looking to transit from an informal collective by a few individuals to a cohesive collective as a formal social entity.
What is a foodscape?
We have seen foodscapes develop from the inside: seeing the gestation of what we aspirationally termed a “foodscape”, to its uptake by a wider local community.
We have found not one but multiple foodscapes – landscapes of food – in any given space and time. You are part of a few yourself, as long as you eat. Each of us in the collective brings our experiences as multiple selves and identities as consumers, growers, friend-families, and like-minded strangers.
Foodscape Collective began visiting gardens in 2015, and since then have visited more than 81 gardens, always inviting the public to join us on our visits. We’ve come in touch with so many people who are growing an edible landscape, right in Singapore. These informal networks are working not only with each other, but with the ground, local soil, neighbourhood committees and residents committees, schools and neighbours, exploring and utilising resources in the neighbourhood to grow the most priceless form of wealth: good food and health. Our local foodscape, we have learnt, is truly vibrant, resilient, curious and creative: with a dynamism, imagination and generosity that calls in new uses of space: from rooftops, backyards, temporary spaces, to ground allotments, working with their estates, businesses, neighbourhood committees and residents committees to make these spaces imaginable and possible.
But the foodscape also includes the people who bring our food in to Singapore, prepare, and finally dispose of it: the fishermen and fish importers peopling the Senoko Fishery Port at 3am, hauling crates of fish in for wholesalers; the vegetable vendors who trade vegetables, brought in from Malaysia and Thailand, who then sell it in bulk to restaurants. It includes the airflown premium goods that go to supermarkets and food factories, and the franchised operations who receive their food ingredients, processed, ready to be assembled into edible form. It includes the vendors and hawkers preparing their store’s daily bulk of fresh ingredients and the short-term labourers who travel in to work in Singapore, in the retail, service, catering, and waste operations that dot the island.
When we pay money for food-made-through-others’-expertise, we are separated from the way it is produced. We don’t know how beer is made, or what a beer-brewer thinks about in trying to achieve the finest quality beer. We don’t know the sources, spaces and quality of air s/he works with, to ensure a fine ferment. The further away the production is from us (be it out of sight or outside a country), the easier it is to not care about it. It becomes a service that you take for granted.
What makes up the collective?
As a collective of people, our concerns range over the social, ecological, and ethical.
Certainly, we are concerned with much more than talk: we have seen that impactful, inclusive change comes about only when we lead locally and regionally with our actions and practices, speak in the languages that diverse groups recognise, and attend to the urgent calls of our hearts and minds.
With more demands from schools and organizations joining the walk towards more regenerative practices, we recognise that we can serve as activators to harness the existing knowledge on the ground, and facilitate the transmission of these knowledge in the form of hands-on workshops, skill-sharing talks, participatory events and experiential learnings. In order to serve in a way that is sustainable in the current economic system, the collective is in the process of registering as a legal entity.