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Feb 21, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - Rural Farming


A farmer and his family in 1951.


"Rural Farming" are both terms of the past five decades ago and no longer referred to Singapore. We are now a vibrant and active urbanised metropolitan city connected to every "happening" city in the world on the Internet. Singapore is no longer a "kampong" countryside.

Where have all the rural farming in Singapore gone?

Thanks to our National Archives of Singapore with photo credit and acknowledgement for these memorable photos to share with us as their "memory aids".

Fifty years ago, my family and I were living in Bukit Ho Swee, next door to the pig-sties which belongs to our landlord.

Oops...I mean the sties were for the pigs, not for the landlord.

Every morning when my father passed by these pig-sties, he had to cover a handkerchief splashed with perfume to cover his nose.

My father had no complaints about the smell while passing by the pig sties daily. He knows that it was the livelihood of our neighbour as a pig farmer. There were about ten big pigs in the sties.

In the night, we could hear the loud snoring of the pigs :(

I grew up with this kind of "memories of smell" in Singapore in the 1960s...

About 50 years ago, the farm areas were located in Lim Chu Kang, Choa Chu Kang, Yio Chu Kang, Sembawang, Kranji, Pasir Panjang, Toa Payoh and other farmers who inherited from their ancestors for livelihood in farming for pigs, cows, ducks, chickens and small plots of land for growing vegetables for the markets in Singapore.

Photo of 1963 at Toa Payoh under resettlement by the Housing & Development Board (HDB).

Agriculture and other forms of farming in Singapore are land-intensive. The ways done in the past for rural farming has evolved over the decades.

Nowadays, fresh food are supplied from our neighbouring countries and air-flown from all parts of the world.

Lets take a look at the AVA (formerly the Primary Production Dept) history at:

During the 60s, many Singaporeans were involved in agricultural activities. There were some 20,000 farms then occupying more than 14,000 hectares of land. Most farmers and fishermen were poorly educated and they used traditional farming methods.

In the 1970s, farmers were re-settled from the water catchment sites, which were affected by public projects. Larger commercial farms using more intensive methods of production replaced the subsistence type farms. An intensive pig farming estate was also developed in Punggol to house relocated pig farms.

The 1980s saw a drastic decline in agricultural land. Many farmers were resettled to provide land for housing and industry. To maintain a degree of self-sufficiency and maximise land productivity, PPD began to develop farmlands into Agrotechnology Parks.

PPD's diversification efforts and integrated food safety programme resulted in ample supplies of safe primary foods to Singapore. Food prices remained stable and our food safety standards are comparable to that in advanced countries. Singapore also remained free from major outbreaks of food-borne diseases caused by imported primary produce.

In 2000 and beyond, the birth of Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore AVA .

A rural field station which provides veterinary services to livestock farmers. Most of them were located in Changi, Ponggol-Tampines, and Yio Chu Kang in addition to the main veterinary field station at Lim Chu Kang. A field station is like this follow simple construction material specifications because of budgetary constraints- asbestos roofs, wooden walls and concertized flooring.

Lim Chu Kang Veterinary field station in 1960.

The ways done in the rural areas are no longer in Singapore.

Personal speaking, the determined size of our land is limited. How much larger can the little red dot be grown to become a bigger red dot...regardless of whatever land reclamation from the sea by human efforts and maneuvers. Its so much that could be done by Man.

In my personal perspective, experimenting with my current nostalgia blog topics on "Ways Done in the Past" theme, these nostalgic memories are not intended to justify for comparison of "then and now" periods of a person as an analogy.

For instance, the physical size and height of a person (male or female) doesn't matter in everything. Except for "Miss Universal" contest as the criteria for look and height maybe...

Self-discovery while blogging to search for memories of my kampong days is an interesting pastime, a hobby.

As in "Being and nothingness" by Jean-Paul Sartre:

"I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape".

My Bukit Ho Swee kampong friends met for our once-a-year Chinese New Year visit recently. We are not rich guys who go regularly for health spas or salons for beauty treatments to look younger and fresher. We prefer to look naturally and don't care about cosmetics or make-ups. I don't even care about my "crowning glory" to boast ;)

To look back to the transformations of Singapore with my childhood buddies with shared personal perceptions, it was like watching a child grow and develop over 50 years; every year getting older but never younger to look at ourselves.

Never mind, lets pore over our photo collections of our youngdays and be happy once again. We cannot "gostan", we can only go ahead, brothers!

"Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal" ~ Jean Paul Sartre.

Back to the blog topic about "Rural Farming":

I did not grow up in a rural farm in Singapore in 1948, but hens, ducks and pigs, goats, were commonly seen in Bukit Ho Swee.

When I was young, my mother once brought me to a "live" poultry shop in Kallang to buy a few baby ducks home. She reared these ducklings in a small wooden hut in front of the house. My mother was quite innovative. She built a simple "duck hut" with bits and pieces of wood found in the kampong, using nails. I wondered how she had an "architect's brain" without any measurements, floor-plans or drawings of the hut.

It took her about a week to complete the 'masterpiece' all by herself. The baby ducks were bought after she built the "duck-hut".

Mother must have thought it would be a good idea to buy some "live toys" for me to play and make me happy. It would also keep her occupied to feed the baby ducks, which later the pets became food to put on the table for dinner. Amazing!

For youngsters who have not seen some photos of farms in Singapore in the past, lets look at these interesting photos, with credit and courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore to share them here.

Rural farming villages in Singapore
Farmers in Singapore in 1904.

The Ama Keng vegetable farming villages in 1986.

A group of farmers in Singapore c 1900.

A farmer house c 1900.

Ama Keng farming village in 1950s.

A vegetable farm in Jalan Kayu c 1950.

Duck Farms in Singapore


Chicken Farms in Singapore

A chicken farm in the 1950s.


Cow Farms in Singapore

A cow farmer at Lim Chun Kang in 1955.

A cow farm in 1960.

The Singapore Dairy Farm in 1951.

A group of students from Bukit Panjang Government School excusion to the Singapore Dairy Farm in 1951.

Pig Farm in Singapore

A pig farm at Lim Chu Kang in 1955.

The popular nursery rhyme:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done

Vegetable Farms in Singapore

The vegetable farm at Kranji in 1951.

The vegetable farm at Potong Pasir in the 1950s.


Visitors to the rural farm

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4 Comments:

Blogger Yee Weng Hong said...

I do not have any experience of kampong life. The only time I came across farms was when doing national service in the 1980s. We had to walk across some vegetable farms in mandai during our exercises. When I was young, we still buy live chickens from markets to slaughter at home. Those chicken were somehow tastier than the frozen chicken we buy from supermarkets nowadays. Now in Singapore, it is hard to find a live chicken anywhere.

February 23, 2012 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thanks for the memories, Weng Hong.

Bukit Ho Swee was a "kampong within a city", not exactly a countryside.

I had an experience of rural farming in Singapore in the 1970s during NS days and the rustic life of Singapore, where vegetable and livestock farms were located in Hong Kah Village. The topo march in the village was a new experience to me.

I often backpack travelling to small towns in Malaysia during my younger days for the experience of rural farming. I avoided the big cities in Kuala Lumpur though.

The "Avian influenza H5N1" virus outbreak in Hong Kong when chickens were culled by the thousands in 2011 during the bird flu outbreak.

February 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger lim said...

I absolutely love the farming area in Marsiling with its rolling hills and beautiful farmland. Its pastoral beauty is a source of inspiration to me.

Unfortunately, they are all gone. Some parts are even sealed off as military area. With a little bit of hindsight, some areas could have been preserved as heritage farms.

Today, one has to go to Lim Chu Kang area to see some farms. But they are all very commercialized. Nothing like the old pastoral Marsiling that I knew off.

February 23, 2012 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger dashing hongeng said...

Those days farming denotes vegetable farming, animal husbandry, fishery all in one. There was very few specific farming. The reason was they were all interdependent. The waste of the farm animals was used a manure for the vegetables. The leftover vegetables and edible weeds etc were fed to the animals etc. Farmers had fresh vegetables, meat, fish and fruit. They did not use artificial fertiliser or insecticides. To kill insects they used a poisonous plant called tuba. In short the food was all organic. Those days there was no electricity and therefore not refrigerators. Food was not chilled. To them chilled food was not consider fresh. To know more you may visit: wwwyeohongeng.blogspot.com.
We were farmers of those era.

February 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM  

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