Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tong Chong Street Market

Tong Chong Street Market
So, I've started a new farmers' market in Hong Kong - actually it's been over a month now, but it just didn't occur to me to write about it. As you might remember, it's not the first time I've done something like this, although I'm happy to say that Tong Chong Street Market is a big improvement on my previous efforts, and much closer to my ideal - a food-focused farmers' market. We have a total of 40 stalls, 20 local farmers, 10 special stalls for food you can eat on the spot, and 10 stalls where you can buy pantry items, bread, wine and so on. But isn't she a writer, you ask, why bother setting up something like this? (Okay, no-one asked but I'm just going to tell you).

Locally farmed produce - Yes, grown in Hong Kong!
A while back, after going to Noma, I started looking into farming and growing, initially for a story to write in the South China Morning Post (it never actually happened). To my surprise, I found a) a whopping 95% of our food is imported, and 2) there are farmers in Hong Kong (there are more than 100 certified organic farms in Hong Kong!). People always shrug and say, well, it's because we don't have space to farm in Hong Kong, oh but we do*.

Anyway, I wondered why it was so difficult to buy local produce and decided that it would be easy to set up a farmers market. Famous last words. In short, it was, and continues to be, far from easy, what with the regulations, lack of consumer education, business concerns, management of a million parties with different expectations, the now "overcrowded" market of events** and such.

Food and drink at #TCSMarket - Pololi, The Woods, Common Ground, Bread and Beast, and more...
But enough with the complaining, because I have been so damn fortunate to be working with some amazing small business owners, many of whom I never thought I'd have the privilege of working with - from the excellent restaurants and bars, farmers and food producers and distributors, to super-cool designers (MIRO) and artists (startfromzero), as well as an amazingly supportive co-presenter, Swire Properties Taikoo Place - I've said it was my #dreamteam, and it really is.
Stall design by MIRO and art by startfromzero

Tong Chong Street Market is far from perfect, but I'd like to think of it as a showcase of what's possible in Hong Kong, despite the challenges - a regular, fun farmers market that truly adds to a community and makes long-term, positive impact. It's a place where the general public can get to know food entrepreneurs, first hand, who work in different stages of the process - from farm to fork, literally. There's something about talking to someone and seeing things with your own eyes that can't be beat. Hopefully, in a small and gradual way, we can make changes to how people choose to consume on a weekly basis.

Thanks Gary for this photo - it's kind of a good metaphor for the market - it really does take a village! (And I will forever look awkward and embarrassed about being at the "centre" of it)
51 sq km of land is zoned for agriculture - yes that's tiny, but a mere 7 sq km of it is being farmed. SEVEN!!
** Can I just say, outdoor markets that aren't traditional wet markets still aren't a big thing in Hong Kong - there are plenty of arts and crafts pop-ups and the occasional novelty food event, but still, there are no other real, regular farmers markets the city - like, with real farmers and food to eat and enjoy on the spot, week in, week out. Why won't anyone else set up other ones (well, I know why, cause it's hard, but can someone other than me please get on with it! You can do it!)

Tong Chong Street Market
Tong Chong Street,
Taikoo Place, (Quarry Bay MTR Exit A)
Hong Kong
Every Sunday 11am-5pm until 27 December 2015, continuing in Spring 2016.

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