EVERY morning, the sound of laughter and cangkul hitting the earth can be heard at the Community Garden in Section 24 Setia, Shah Alam.
The garden has become the passion of a group of retirees who started it two years ago.
Today, the urban farm in the heart of the city is a lush, self-sustaining project, thanks to the hard work and love they have put in.
The sight of abandoned land owned by Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) going to waste prompted Section 24 Setia Residents Association chairman Ismail Mat and his team to clean up the area with the active encouragement of their councillor Awang Ibrahim.
“Some 80 residents turned up to help clear the land and it was not easy. We used the funding Awang gave us to start,” he said.
Awang added that the idea was partly sparked by a visit he organised to Sabak Bernam.
The 0.14ha garden is one of the 10 community farms registered with MBSA.
Farm chairman Ramli Mohd Salleh said all of them were urbanites with little or no knowledge about growing plants but they educated themselves.
The fruits of their labour can be clearly seen in the plots of vegetables that have been divided for personal consumption and commercial sale.
“We even have an irrigation system built by the residents. We also make our own organic fertiliser from vegetable and fruit scraps,” added Ramli.
They use brown sugar to speed up the composting process and chicken faeces is used as well.
The urban farmers are also planning to rear catfish using the hydroponic method.
Some 3,000 fish will be reared in six tanks as fertiliser and for sale at their weekly market.
Residents may take the produce on the designated residents’ plots for their own consumption but those growing on commercial ones are meant to be sold at the market, which is held every Wednesday and Saturday in Jalan Kangkung Puteri 24/7, from 9am to 11am.
The produce are much cheaper than the ones at the pasar tani or wet markets in Shah Alam. For example, a papaya could cost as low as RM1. Other produce include bananas, chillies and fresh herbs.
Another community garden in Jalan Tuntung, Section 20, has sprung up on 1ha of land designated for MBSA’s staff quarters.
It is also run by retirees and about 63 houses are located here, compared to 217 in Section 24 Setia.
The head of the farm Abdullah A. Hamid said working adults and teenagers also helped out after work or during weekends.
“However, it is the retirees and older folk who spend most of their time tending to the garden and selling the produce,” he added.
There are six plots for individuals as well as communities but everything is shared equally.
They grow more than 30 types of plants and vegetables and there is also a dedicated herb garden with a fresh ulam selection.
The vegetables and fruits produced here are quite big, making them ideal as seedlings.
Their bestseller is the Roselle plant, which housewives in the community use to make jam as well as juice.
The residents make about RM400 a month selling their produce through Farm Day sales held every Tuesday morning.
Residents are allowed to take whatever vegetables and fruits they want and but are encouraged to give a token sum.
“We use the money to buy kitchen and gardening equipment and other things for the residents associations and the farm,” said Abdullah.
However, they are facing manpower issues to manage such a large garden.
Abdullah said while the pensioners put in a lot of time, it is still difficult to maintain because of time and weather constraints.
“Most of the time, it rains in the evening so people are unable to come and help out.
“We also need a machine to help us plough,” he added, saying they hope to raise funds to buy suitable machinery.
MBSA welcomes applications for community farm