IMPACT 0410: SHEDDING LIGHT ON SINGAPORE’S AGRICULTURE SCENE
Madeline Tan, 23, is the public relations (PR) Lead of “Fresh off the Dot”, a 3-month communication campaign that encourages demand for local produce in Singapore. Helmed by a 4-women team, the project is part of a final-year academic project (FYP) for Nanyang Technological University, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, and a recipient of the National Youth Council — Young ChangeMakers grant. Madeline shares some lessons that she has learnt on this journey.
Singapore’s agriculture scene is complex!
Something I learnt from this project was the many layers of the local farming scene. While I’m not proud to admit it, I had no idea Singapore had farms or that my own mother buys from some of them until a few months ago! Having the chance to speak to farmers and those involved provided us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to peek into the inner workings of the agriculture scene, and made us appreciate our food and farmers even more.
We hope that with our campaign and other efforts from other stakeholders, more people will be aware of the farms and farmers we have in Singapore (and that’s over 200!).
Actively seek out opportunities
As students in the sea of local produce businesses, we realized that opportunities would not present themselves unless we actively sought them. Farmers are just like any other entrepreneurs; while all the farmers we’ve met are super friendly, genuine, and always willing to lend us students a hand, they were also busy with their businesses and have little time to spoon-feed us.
Recognising this, we learnt to take ownership of our campaign and were constantly on the lookout for opportunities. We do this through news monitoring and constant brainstorming.
Manage different stakeholders and finding a good balance
Since our campaign consists of multiple components, such as social media, PR efforts and an event, we also work with multiple stakeholders. Some of these stakeholders are The Local Farm by Gardenasia, Kranji Countryside Association, as well as Open Farm Community. Working with multiple partners means that various interests are at stake, requiring a tender balance of all parties involved. This gave our team good practice on stakeholder management and managing these relationships to have everyone’s interests at heart.
Having several work streams that span across a few months, it is important that we plan ahead and have contingency plans. What really helped our group stay on track was the discipline to stick to our schedule which we set from the start, as well as weekly meetings.
Accept rejection and move on
Over the course of our campaign (especially the pre-launch), our group reached out to numerous partners and brands in hopes of collaborating with them for stuff like partnerships, sponsorships and giveaways.
However, along the way, we encountered numerous rejections and setbacks, forcing us to restart from scratch several times. While we were demoralised and disappointed in the beginning, we learnt to pick ourselves up. Getting rejected doesn’t have to be the end-all be-all — the experiences allowed us to better refine our strategy and pursue new opportunities.
As a result of our pursuit of new opportunities, we landed a collaboration with Open Farm Community, Singapore’s pioneering urban farm and restaurant concept which showcases local and regional produce. We already have an event planned for February!
Stand behind a cause you truly believe in
As mentioned, we did hit several roadblocks along this journey. Furthermore, we are working on this project on top of our other responsibilities, such as academic work, and focusing on it for lengthy periods of time can lead to burnout.
However, when we first started this journey, we agreed that the most important criteria for our topic is that it should be something we have a vested interest in, and I believe that that is what has kept us motivated to keep doing what we’re doing.
As the project progressed over the months, there were times where we got distracted by the fast pace of the project, but I felt that it was important that we kept ourselves grounded, and not forget our initial purpose – to help farmers and advocate for local produce. One important lesson we learnt was to not lose focus and always remember the reason why we started this project.
Step out of your comfort zone
Prior to starting our FYP, I had no experience liaising with external businesses about my own project, on my own terms. While I had previous internship experiences, I was never at the forefront; I always had a reliable supervisor/colleague to whom I could turn to to vet my materials before sending them out.
As the PR lead at Fresh off the Dot, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone to speak with and liaise with influencers, farmers, and business owners without relying on a higher authority. Luckily, I had my teammates I could always fall back on.
Teamwork and communication is key
While this may sound cliché, I think it’s true. I consider myself lucky to have found teammates whose working styles align with mine, especially since we didn’t know each other beforehand!
My teammates and I always ensured that we were internally aligned before sending out any kind of communication to external parties. This ensured that we were all aware of what was going on in the project process, even though we were in-charge of different aspects of the campaign.
I’ve also learned how to divide duties and collaborate more efficiently. As a small team of four running a full-fledged campaign, it was crucial for each of us to play to our strengths and support each other in varied aspects.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This project would not have been successful without the help of our community partners, partner brands as well as our academic professors. Knowledge about local produce and farms is not native to many of us in Singapore, and even we, who were campaigning for this cause, had to dive into unfamiliar territory in order to better understand the local scene. Stepping into new territory, I learnt how to not be shy to reach out and ask for help when I needed it.
This article was published on Mar 8, 2022