On Sunday, 24 May, I hauled my butt out of bed and onto a train into what is possibly one of the most out-of-the-way places in Singapore- Kranji.
Okay, so it’s certainly more vibrant than it used to be, but to quote a friend, “it’s like Narnia”.
This begs the question- what was I doing in Kranji/Narnia on a Sunday morning? Well, I was on my way to Hay Dairies, a farm in Singapore that produces goat’s milk for local consumption. I was visiting the farm, together with my project mates, because we had an assignment to visit a local farm and take a look at the role it would play in Singapore’s food independence.
Getting to the farm was an experience and a half- the train ride took about forty minutes, but at least I had a seat! From Kranji MRT station, we took a shuttle bus that brought us around to various farms in the Lim Chu Kang area, in order to get to Hay Dairies.
The bus arrived, and we got onto the bus together with a load of tourists. The entire bus ride was just mildly eyebrow raising, largely because I suspect the tour group forgot that we weren’t part of them, and were singing and chatting very loudly. It was… interesting, so to speak, if a little jarring. Also, seeing as I understood their conversations, I have faith that my Mandarin is not as bad I think it is. I hope.
When we finally reached the farm, we were greeted by the pungent smell of goat turd. If you’ve ever been to the hippopotamus enclosure at the zoo, it smells like that, though you do get used to it. We got there early enough to watch the milking of the goats- milking finishes at around 1030-1100am, so if you want to see them milk the goats, go early!
We then walked around to look at the goats, and decided to tag along with a tour the farm was giving to this group of children, who were out on a field trip. The owner of the farm, Mr John Hay, gave a pretty lively explanation of how his farm worked and how the milking process was carried out. We also tried out goat’s milk, which in my opinion tastes something like cow’s milk, just thinner and a bit milder in terms of taste. It also didn’t have a discernable smell, which is interesting because I’ve always been under the impression goat’s milk has a strong smell.
After Mr Hay gave the tour, we were able to snag him for a quick conversation, to find out more about his farm and to answer some questions for our project. From our chat with him, we learnt something interesting- that all the 62 farms in the area are living on borrowed time. The leases expire in 2017, and it’s up in the air whether or not the lease will be renewed. Even if it is renewed, the new laws only let leases run for ten years, which is also a problem for the farmers.
According to Mr Hay, the farms in Singapore have the potential to supply up to 40% of the country’s food, if only they had the necessary land and resources to do so. Additionally, while it is all very well and good that we can import food now, what will we do in times of crisis when we can’t get imports?
It was all very interesting food for thought, and it has got me thinking. We take for granted that we will always have food coming in from other countries- but what’s going to happen when there is a shortage?
All in all, the trip to Hay Dairies was an interesting one. I’d not been to a farm since I was a small child, and I’ve also never seen mountain goats in real life before, so it provided me with some really cool insights.
(Also, goat’s milk is really quite good; it is so worth a try).