Farm, factory and food wholesale centre: What to expect at My Community Festival’s vegetable farm tour

This is the first time My Community Festival has events lined up in Malaysia.

Kirby Tan

Will redo the same personality test until I get the results I want.

Published: 31 July 2023, 12:05 PM

At almost every cai png (economic rice) stall lies freshly cooked bok choy, broccoli and brinjal. But even as they settle into their trays in Singapore, their roots can be traced back to Malaysia.

In fact, Malaysia’s vegetable farms supply 42 per cent of Singapore’s imported vegetables. As part of My Community Festival (MCF)’s MY-SG programme, organised by non-profit organisation My Community, visitors can take a short trip to Senai, Johor and visit Ngee Teck Huat (NTH) Vegetable Farm – one of Singapore’s largest vegetable producers and suppliers. 

The day trip then brings them to the NTH logistics facilities before concluding back in Singapore at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre.

This is just one of the 100 events curated around the theme of “Love My Neighbour” in MCF’s fourth and biggest edition which will run from 4 to 20 Aug.

My Senai with Ngee Teck Huat Vegetable Farmer Pua Chon Teck will be held on 9 Aug, from 11am to 10pm, and is $30 per pax. 

Ngee Teck Huat Vegetable Farm

Walking along the aisles of supermarkets like NTUC and Sheng Siong, one can find produce grown and harvested at NTH vegetable farm.

Located over an hour away from Singapore in Senai, Johor, this farm was founded by vegetable farmer Pua Choon Teck in 1995. With about 200 acres of land and 250 employees, NTH vegetable farm harvests over 20 tons of vegetables each day. 


The vegetable farm is situated on relatively hilly terrain. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


The tour begins with a walk around the plantation. Led by the programme facilitators and Mr Pua, visitors will be introduced to the assortment of leafy greens produced at the farm, including spinach and lettuce. 

From three-day-old seedlings to fully grown vegetables, visitors can even see and touch veggies at different stages of growth. 


This farmer is from Kendal, Indonesia, and has been working at NTH vegetable farm for 11 years. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


Moving through the farm, visitors can also watch some NTH’s farmers work. 

As part of the guided tour, they can even interview some of the farmers. Since some of them only speak in their native languages, the programme facilitators will act as translators. 


The farmers work six days a week, and are paid by how much they harvest. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


Visitors will then be brought to Mr Pua’s oil palm plantation. With a canopy of trees sheltering them, the path feels like a respite from the sweltering heat. 

That said, as visitors venture deeper into the plantation, they may find themselves hiking up uneven ground littered with loose rocks. Still, the view awaiting them at the top may make up for the physical strain.


There are many photo spots in the NTH vegetable farm. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN

Ngee Teck Huat Logistics Facilities

Next, visitors will take a 30-minute bus ride to NTH Logistics Facilities, where the freshly harvested vegetables are prepared and packaged. But before they can even step foot into the facility, they have to don disposable shoe covers, masks and hair nets to prevent contamination of vegetables.

As visitors walk through the facilities, they can see NTH’s vacuum coolers that kill bacteria, remove moisture and prolong vegetables’ shelf life. 


The vacuum coolers are used to pre-cool leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


Visitors can also observe how NTH’s trained workers trim, sort, grade, weigh and pack the vegetables in the packing room. 

From as early as 8am, these workers have to prepare and pack about 7000kg of vegetables. Open seven days a week, the logistics facilities only closes once a year – during Chinese New Year.


The workers can get off work earlier if there are less vegetables to prepare and pack, said the NTH staff. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


After the vegetables are prepared, they are weighed and sorted. 

While there are automated sorting machines, smaller quantities of vegetables, such as 200g, have to be packed by hand. 


The workers come from Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal, among others. GIF CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN

Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre (PPWC)

For the final part of the tour, visitors will take a two-hour bus ride to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre – Singapore’s main distribution point of fruits, vegetables and dried goods.

PPWC comes alive at night as wholesalers bustle about, transporting cartons of produce and setting up their stores, while forklifts weave through the scene.


The vendors sell a variety of produce imported from all over the world, including Malaysia, Japan and Australia. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


As visitors are guided through the centre, the programme facilitators will introduce them to a few wholesalers to find out more about their work and their Kampung-like spirit.

Wholesaler Mrs Fong, who has been working at PPWC for about seven years with her husband, shared that the wholesalers share a tight-knit relationship. “Their customers can be our customers, our customers are also their customers. Everybody is here to help each other,” she said. 


Mr and Mrs Fong have been married for 26 years and have two sons. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/KIRBY TAN


While the community is supportive, Mrs Fong shared that this doesn’t always translate into sales. As the years go by, business has been getting slower. She believes the surge in online shopping and the ageing population are some of the reasons behind this drop. 

“But as long as we can still survive, then it’s okay. We still can pay everything that we need to pay, still can carry on,” she said, adding that she hopes more youths will patronise wet and wholesale markets.

For more information and to get tickets, visit the My Community Festival website.

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