“I’ve been a farmer for over 40 years. My family has been farming on this plot of land since I was a kid, so I have been helping out on a farm from a very young age. Back then we also planted all sorts of vegetables, orchids and chrysanthemums. It was hard work, but I really enjoyed the satisfaction of growing and eating our own produce. We now only specialise in clementine plants, which take 3 whole years to grow. I look after each and every plant with care every day; I prune them, fertilise them and make sure that they get enough water and sun. When people think of clementine trees they always think of the Lunar New Year. It’s a festive and symbolic plant because the Chinese word for clementine (桔) sounds the same as the word for luck (吉), so you can say that we are growing good luck here!
“We grow two kinds of clementines. One variety is called ‘Four Seasons’ (四季桔) which is smaller and flatter, and the other is ‘Dragon’s Bile’ (龍膽桔) which is rounder and plumper. Both of these fruits are sour and not very pleasant to eat, so the plants are mainly used for decorative purposes. You can preserve the ‘Four Seasons’ clementines and use those to make tea, like the salted kumquat tea. Our sales are concentrated in the one month before Chinese New Year, so you can imagine that we are taking a big hit this year given the limited festive events. Ironically, I remember the busiest year that we’ve ever had was the year of the bird flu outbreak in 1997. Fewer people were travelling abroad for Chinese New Year and stayed in Hong Kong to celebrate, so our plant sales soared. It’s very different this time with the pandemic - people are not in the mood to spend as much. In the busy stints when we had to rush big orders, we would work 15 hour days. As farmers we are constantly exposed to the sun, rain and even typhoons - these little plants are hard work!”
“I look after the farm with my wife. We met 60 years ago; we both grew up and were neighbours in this same village in Tai Po. We have two sons and two daughters, but none of them work on the farm - it’s simply too labour intensive. There is also a lot of competition from Shenzen and business is tough; although we still have some very loyal customers who have been buying our clementine plants every year for the past 30 years. I always enjoy chit-chatting with them when they come to visit the farm. Our plot of farmland used to be much bigger than this, but we have decided to downsize gradually in recent years. I am already in my 70s, so it’s time to slowly wind down the farm. I am not thinking or worrying about too much these days, just taking life one day at a time!”
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