Urban Farmer hires staff who have autism and other special needs – AutismSTEP
Mr Bjorn Low is mild-mannered and soft-spoken, radiating an affecting calm quite becoming of a gentleman farmer who is happiest tending to his mustard frills, Mexican tarragon, micro basil and other greens.
The 39-year-old is the founder of urban farming social enterprise Edible Garden City (EGC). He set it up in 2012 and, in the last eight years, has been beavering away with the authorities, communities and businesses to propagate the benefits of urban farming, and make Singapore a more sustainable and liveable city.
Among other things, EGC develops and maintains commercial and residential food gardens, grows and sells vegetables to restaurants and families, and conducts workshops and talks about urban farming.
It also organises educational tours to its Citizen Farm in Jalan Penjara, a closed-loop farming model which not only involves the community, but also uses food waste from the city to fertilise the crops it cultivates.
The outfit – a 2017 DBS Foundation Grant awardee – is also big on social impact, hiring staff who have autism and other special needs, and pushing horticulture therapy to promote mental health. EGC employees have also received mentoring and leadership training through DBS’ Foundational Leadership Development Programme.
For his efforts, Mr Low has earned several plaudits, including a 2018 nomination for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award.
It may surprise many, but the congenial man was once a wild teenager who hung out with gangs.
Faint scars on his right hand bear testament to his rebellious past – the legacy of a “suggestive Chinese poem” acquired at 15 and, shortly after, lasered off at the insistence of his exasperated mother.
A fish and other assorted symbols decorate his left arm. “These early tattoos have no meaning. Look fierce can already,” he says, lapsing into Singlish.
“Only later in life did they become markings to remember milestones in my life,” he adds, referring to the tattoos on his legs, which include The Tree Of Life, a sacred symbol in Celtic culture.
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