Urban farming connects people with their roots. In this way, it’s also educational.

– Baris Gencel, artist, creative director and product designer

Gardening! Some take it seriously, some as a past-time or hobby, some occasionally on a start-stop basis, and some have never tried it.

It is usually only possible if we have some space for it. Having a plot of land in our home is ideal, failing which using pots and containers is common.

Gardening is more commonly associated with planting flowers, shrubs and also planting fruits and vegetables at home.

Here, I would prefer to call the planting of fruits and vegetables at home as home farming.

While it is commonly practised in rural and suburban areas, the practice is more limited in the urban environment.

When I refer to home farming in urban areas, I exclude the rearing of livestock in residential properties as it is against local by-laws and can be a huge nuisance and health hazard.

I do occasionally support my wife in her efforts and have in the past dabbled in some home farming, but I’m more of a start-stop variety. My wife, on the other hand, is consistent in her gardening and home farming endeavours.

There is much to be said about home farming and reaping the benefits of homegrown food.

Having food picked from your own backyard for consumption is certainly satisfying. It does also bring cost savings if managed well.

During the MCO, the social media was filled with pictures of home farming efforts by individuals. Therefore, it seems that when people have time, they do turn their efforts towards home farming.

At this time, my wife and I made several trips to the nursery to buy soil and peat as we expanded our vegetable planting.

There were usually a fair number of people at the nursery with the same intention. Like us, I am sure they went home with their cars loaded up to the sound of protesting car suspensions.

On my part over the last four months, I was also able to practice food composting in bins regularly and this provided a constant supply of enzymes as fertiliser.

An additional benefit of composting food waste in bins is not having to buy fertiliser and not having to throw any food waste in the rubbish bin.

I also had time to compost leaves and garden waste. In a few months hopefully, there will be a good supply of mulch for more planting. It is also my bit for the environment as no burning is involved.

However, do take note there is also a learning curve to go through in home farming efforts.

I refer to the types of vegetables and fruits that are most suitable to your needs, those that require more constant care compared to others, the ones that grow faster or fruit more often and so on

In addition to this, there are challenges and disappointments. But with time and experience, these can be minimised.

Here I’m talking about issues such as pest control and the inexplicable reasons why very healthy looking vegetables suddenly just wither away. I tend to turn to friends and YouTube for help.

It’s also encouraging to see the widespread efforts of the Sarawak government to encourage farming ranging from home farming, village-level farming all the way to large-scale agriculture projects.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has on many occasions and via many initiatives encouraged Sarawakians to get involved in farming activities at all levels. Do take up the offer and challenge.

This will go a long way to provide a source of income, employment and food security.

I would encourage people to drop into their nearest agricultural department office to check out the latest initiatives. There might be a suitable one for you.

A starter pack by the agriculture department for urban home farmers would be most helpful.

So, if you are a serious gardener or now consider yourself a home farmer, that is indeed good.

If you have the desire to do home farming more often, I’m sure your family would appreciate it and it provides your table with a supply of food.

If you have decided to try home farming, having not attempted it before, I’m sure you will find it satisfying and beneficial.

There is much to be written about home farming and I’m merely scratching the surface.

So, be it a hobby or a source of food or side income or a new venture, get your hands dirty and enjoy your farming.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.