One of Hong Kong’s best-known certified organic farms, Zen Organic Farm was started by brother and sister Ng Ping-leung and Joey Ng Pik-wan in 2009 near the border in Ta Kwu Ling. The pair are dedicated to growing a diverse range of crops – including figs, strawberries, corn, zucchini, leafy greens and eggplant – that are not often found in Hong Kong. Of the 250,000-square-foot space, greenhouses occupy 100,000 square feet, which protect the crops during rainy seasons and typhoons.
When we meet at Zen Organic on a particularly sunny day, the siblings’ mother greets us as we drive in. Joey shows us around the farm, pointing out rows of sweet peppers and tomatoes. She is particularly proud of her tomatoes, of which she has almost 20 varieties (chef Vinny Lauria is one of her ardent supporters, marrying the succulent heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella for a caprese salad, one of his best sellers).
Joey worked in the fashion industry prior to running the farm, which sits on land that was once a pig farm owned by her father. She and her brother left their respective jobs to transform the plot into an organic farm. “I had never even touched a seed before,” she says, laughing, as she walks by a patch of watermelon that have just started to grow. “The farm had to be dug up to ensure there were no chemicals so it could be converted into an organic farm.” The pair hired an expert who had worked at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to educate them about organic farming.
It’s not an easy task to switch from conventional farming to organic, and issues such as pest control and soil fertility can arise. “We had to do a lot of trial and error to see what fit the climate,” Joey says as we pass a row of pots with vibrantly coloured edible flowers in bloom.
Zen Organic is based around the principles of health, fairness, ecology and care, and the siblings are on a mission to offer Hong Kong new types of produce. Joey has just planted avocados, and though they take seven years to grow, she believes they are worth the wait. “The way people live is changing and improving. They care about their health, and sustainability, and there are a lot of farms now in Hong Kong that can help them live healthily and eat well,” she says. “People are also becoming more conscious about the environment.”
ZEN ORGANIC FARM
WHAT? One of Hong Kong’s largest organic farms, Zen Organic supplies restaurants such as Posto Pubblico and NUR as well as hotels like the Grand Hyatt and Four Seasons with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.
WHO? Founded by brother-and-sister team Ng Ping-leung and Joey Ng Pik-wan
WHEN? The pair acquired the farm in 2008 and officially opened it in 2009.
SIGNATURES: The farm boasts more than 20 varieties of tomatoes, and currently has sweet peppers and watermelons in season. Its edible flowers are also popular with restaurants and bars.
WHAT’S SPECIAL? Though the farm is private, Joey can arrange educational tours for groups.
WHERE? Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling, New Territories; tel: 6692 2671.