Established in 2013 by Sacha Van Damme, Permaclub is making some noise by leading the sustainability charge in one of Asia’s busiest metropolises. Here, we talk to Community Farm Manager Jaki Faulkner about what we should all be doing to live better.
Sustainability in Hong Kong doesn’t always seem within easy reach. But, look a little outside the buzzing metropolis, and you’ll see that green shoots are appearing. One such movement is Permaclub, an educational community-based in the rural scenery of Sai Kung. Founded by Sacha Van Damme in 2013 and tended by Community Farm Manager Jaki Faulkner, this vibrant hub tucked away in Clearwater Bay is focused on educating its visitors through learning experiences dedicated to using eco-design principles to promote clean air, clean food, and a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
For Jaki, it was growing up in the UK, in an area known for its tranquil environment and natural parks, that helped shape who she is today and first formed her interest in the environment. Right from a young age, she found herself close to farm life and recalls how her appreciation for nature began, “my grandfather would bring down bunches of flowers for my sister, and that’s how it all started.”
Before moving to Asia, Jaki studied Conceptual Art at Kingston University, graduating in 1999 with some valuable lessons learned. “My studies allowed me to think creatively, which is actually something I do every day when approaching Permaclub projects.” On leaving university, however, she quickly refound her passion for environmental awareness and set out on a career path that complemented it. In 2010, she collaborated with BedZED UK to build a prototype of the first carbon-neutral housing model. Soon, it was less housing and more the sustainability of our food consumption that she became increasingly concerned with as it dawned on her that the real issue she identified with was society’s lack of connection with its food sources. As she elaborates, “it’s so important to understand our connection with food and where it comes from, and not disregard our environment.”
Jaki stumbled across Permaclub by chance. “I was fundraising for an indoor aquaponics project and came across Permaclub on a friend’s recommendation. I instantly fell in love with the project.” Today, that project prides itself on more than just the production of organic food on its own farm, it is all about using their particular techniques to educate others. Through workshops, classes, team building exercises and learning experiences created around gardening, farming and cooking, Permaclub uses its own modes of production to inspire others to make changes – not only to how they think about their food, but also to how they relate with the wider environment around them, within their workplace and in the wider world.
Permaclub prides itself on more than just the organic production of food. By using heirloom seeds (plants that come out exactly the same as their parents) to keep the soil as healthy as possible, it is not just about producing crops for consumption. “It’s about building the soil, keeping it healthy, sequestering carbon into the soil, and leaving the land better than when you found it,” explains Jaki. And that doesn’t mean you can’t put it to good use. Foods such as turmeric, lemon basil, papaya, bananas, ginger, tarragon and Brazilian spinach are just a few examples of what Permaclub grows on site.
Jaki sees her mission as an urgent one, especially in Hong Kong. “Environmentally, we’re seeing more and more aggressive farming methods and we need to take a long hard look at how we’re ‘managing’ our food systems. If you can’t grow food that sustains the land you are growing it on, then you’re going to run into big problems very quickly,” she says. Studies from HKTDC show that Hong Kong has moved from being a 90% self-grown sustainable food producer to importing over 90% of its food in just 2 decades. And what we’re doing to stop it just doesn’t amount to enough, according to her. “It’s not enough anymore to do a beach clean-up or hike clean-up, or buy ‘clean shampoo’. These are all great initiatives and do need to happen, but we need to step up and stop consuming the waste/plastic/chemicals in the first place. There’s a great line by the ‘Father of Permaculture,’ the Australian scientist and author Bill Mollison, who says, ‘Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.’
It is heartening to know that Jaki does identify others seeking those solutions in Hong Kong. “We are at a very exciting time where more and more people are aware and taking their commitments seriously,” she encourages. “I meet people every day frustrated at the fact they can’t do something as simple as compost their kitchen waste, and there are hundreds of small projects all over Hong Kong working at least within organic farming principles. So pick yourself up, get out of the air-conditioned shopping mall for a day, find a project and go get a workout at the same time. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make the effort.” Or, get down to Permaclub to get started on your new sustainable journey.
Address: 38 Hang Hau Wing Lung Rd, New Territories, Hong Kong
Telephone: 6653 4518