My friend Jenny runs the amazing Ark Eden high up the hill on Lantau Island. Ark Eden presents Lantau Island as a living, world-class natural environmental wonder within China and Asia and suggests how its natural assets can be used to benefit education, local communities, Hong Kong residents and overseas visitors — in fact a lesson in life for all of us.
The aim is to preserve the island’s ecological, geographical, historical and cultural heritage by following a sustainable lifestyle and by providing inspiring educational and eco-tourism opportunities for children, adults, residents and tourists.
They do this through a series of integrated workshops, field trips and camps designed to lead every participant towards a better understanding of the environment and what everyone’s role is in conservation, preservation and sustainability.
Here is a recent piece on the project from CNN
At Ark Eden, a library of farming lore is contained in a single lunch. Visitors to the organic farm in Mui Wo are focused on getting their afternoon meal ready, and they must start from scratch. Digging-in-the-soil-for-carrots kind of scratch.
We visited Ark Eden to harvest our own lunch and cook it on the terrace of a 1940′s Hong Kong village house, surrounded by nature. A meal at Ark eden is a holistic event with all the stages of basic food production incorporated. We learnt how to ward off birds with old CD’s, we learnt the art of companion-planting, and we were charmed to crush dried manure.
Founder of Ark Eden Jenny Quinton sets the scene for the day. The news that lunch needs to be dug from the ground is slightly alarming. Only Belle, the pug in the background looks excited.
Our group split into diggers, composters and companion-planters. Quinton’s daughter Adele explains which plants are compatable mates: beans like corriander, tomatoes grow better in a bed of marrigolds, and beetroots dig kolrabi.
Rather than entangling seabirds, discarded fishing nets are used to create no-fly-zones for birds who know too well how to connect with salad vegetables.
Gardening starts with making soil. Young Justin is initially reluctant to connect with the compost, but become fascinated that this pile of leaves, insects, worms, vegetable scraps and manure has value.
Despite a series of “eeuuuw” and “yuuuks,” Justin and his friend John Luca help turn the compost pile.
New in Hong kong, New Yorkers Mabs (left) and Bonny understand the disconnect with nature that happens to people who live in big cities. Having found this slow food outing on the Internet, they happily powder hardened water buffalo manure to add as a super-charger to the compost.
Food forges its own connections: Peter Lloyd (shirtless), next door neighbour to Quinton, lends a hand with the group who are seeding a fresh bed.
Leaves of a young tomato plant cross the bamboo fence to flirt with a pineapple.
Gardens are planted in stages for continual cropping. Hong Kong organic farms may not feed everyone but they are spaces to discover real food and meet like-minded people. The seeds of future environmental initiatives are planted here.
Lunch is prepared outdoors. Everyone chips in.”Kitchen scraps really speed up the compost,” explains Lloyd.
Connecting with food in our favorite way, with family and friends.
Last but not least, we visit the star of the farm: three legged Charlie. A dedicated mulch maker, Charlie awaits the leftovers from lunch, which he will eventually transform into manure.