Super Farmers' Journey
It was Christmas of 2014, and we ran our first workshop for the children of Club Rainbow. Some of them, too ill to participate, had help from their parents and siblings. Many of them who are still able, excitedly filled their little houses fashioned out of cardboard boxes with soil to grow microgreens. That heartwarming pro-bono workshop held in the cozy Naiise Christmas pop-up in a shophouse, against the backdrop of a rainy evening would be the first of many workshops we would run in the years to follow.
I started Super Farmers with $0, freshly broke from having every single cent wiped out from my bank account after my daughter's one-month hospital stay that had thankfully saved her from her near-death Pneumonia episode. You can read that story here.
After spending almost two years prior working at urban farming organisations, growing my own food, taking up a nutritional course, and intensively cooking healthy fare for my family and friends, I made my first dollar facilitating a sold-out workshop at the 2014 Archifest, held alongside the Singapore River, on the Marina Bay Sands Boardwalk. I remember the triumphant feeling of receiving a phone call from the organisers to quickly add on a second workshop that weekend due to overwhelming demand. That Archifest made Super Farmers its first $1200!
This is a story of my journey running Super Farmers, and it is peppered with tribulations, failures and small successes. Most importantly, it has been a humbling journey, one I know will forever shape the way I live my life.
At lunch one day, I sat across two ladies who were chatting with each other. It was a communal table and I overheard them discussing about an empty shop space one of them had. This is a sign from the universe, I thought, and plucked up courage to introduce myself to see if there was a chance I could perhaps run a physical Super Farmers store.
As I've rightly guessed, I could not afford even a fraction of the rent. But, I wasn't ready to give up. I went on to approach fellow small business owners who were keen to give offline retail a go. And I would be so lucky to meet a handful of them, who all agreed to come on board this journey with me. With that, our first brick and mortar Super Farmers collective pop-up store was born on April 2015, in the hip enclave of Tiong Bahru, in a shared space with Tofu Designs, alongside Plain Vanilla Bakery, Forty Hands Cafe and Yoga Movement. I'd never forget the proud feeling I felt going to work everyday.
Although we lasted only five short months in that pop-up, we met so many amazing people who would become our good friends till today.
After the pop-up ended, I continued to run workshops independently, lugging around bags of soil, plants and materials tirelessly, to schools, to companies, to private parties. It was a great contrast to the days I used to saunter around in my heels and power suit, flying around the world to attend conferences and meetings.
Entrepreneurship is a deeply enriching journey; One that is humbling, shifts your paradigms and gives you insights into this magical thing, life.
One afternoon, while tending to plants at our pop-up, I received a life-changing phone call. It was my mum. She'd received her medical results, and she had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. My world collapsed almost instantly, the dreaded C-word had found its way into our family, at a time I could afford neither time nor money. I couldn't afford to lose her either.
You know the saying "It takes a village to raise a child"? Well, it also takes a village to care for an unwell adult. We quickly devised plans and assigned roles within the family; My dad would become my mum's primary caregiver, and me, her secondary caregiver. My brother did whatever he could given his busy role as a new father. I accompanied mum to every single PET CT scan, Leukocyte injection and to cheer her up after her mastectomy, I decided to spend every single Monday with her.
#mondayswithmum became a fun and happy affair. We attended cooking classes, discovered places we never knew existed in Singapore, and gradually, as she lost most of her hair, we went to shave her head bald and shopped for wigs. I would share with her positive tales from work, and they always brought her hope and positivity amidst the harshness and bleakness of the seemingly never-ending treatment.
I share this story because, I now run Super Farmers with this humility I have gleaned from our journey with mum's Cancer. I still spend every single Monday with mum as her body slowly regained immunity and the remaining Cancer slowly dissolved. I encourage all of my staff to do the same. That's why we're closed on Mondays so that we can spend them with our loved ones.
The stars must have aligned for me one day in late 2016, when I was introduced to the lady owner of an Aerospace company, Wah Son Engineering, the only Singapore company in the Seletar Aerospace Park, peppered with big names like Rolls Royce, Boeing and Airbus. She was looking for someone to build up an urban farm within her premises, and I was looking for somewhere to move my home operations to. Like a marriage made in heaven, Super Farmers finally found a home for the next 12 months.
It was there, after spending so much time being with plants, when I had an epiphany; Nature is such a great teacher about life. That year at Wah Son really gave me a brand new perspective about what Super Farmers can become, beyond just urban farming.
It's hard to disbelieve Serendipity because as I embarked on looking for Super Farmers' own permanent space to house our growing team, I met Flying Cape, an online platform for enrichment classes, and they have found a physical space to move into and were looking to rope in partners to populate the building. I fell in love with the space the moment I stepped in (even though at that time, it was in shambles, and very difficult to imagine what the space could become).
With sheer grit and patience, after months of designing and renovations, and running into problems one after another, my team and I built our dream house, and we would go on to call it HOUSE by Super Farmers - a slow space to gather, learn and discover.
Finally, this dream has come true. I can't wait to share with you all the programs we have lined up to help re-calibrate, reconnect and rejuvenate you, to bring you joy.
All Super Farmers wants to do, is to help make this world a happier one.