14 November 2019
Kenny Tso, a retired official of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, finds great pleasure in working as a full-time farmer. Photo: HKEJ
Kenny Tso, a retired official of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, finds great pleasure in working as a full-time farmer. Photo: HKEJ

Former ICAC official finds new career as farmer after retirement

Not too many people in Hong Kong would want to be a farmer, but Kenny Tso, a retired principal investigator at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), finds great pleasure in making it his second career.

While there may not be much of a connection between farming and his 37-year stint at the anti-graft body, Tso said working with the soil has brought him a lot of satisfaction since he retired four years ago.

That satisfaction comes not from facing the challenges of a very important office but from pursuing what could be considered as a spiritual undertaking.

In an interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Tso said he loved his work at ICAC, where he had been in charge of many major cases, but as his retirement approached, he had to acknowledge that he would not be doing anything related to investigation once he left the agency.

At ICAC, the painstaking work involved in looking for evidence to solve cases was the source of much excitement and self-fulfillment, but also of frustration.

In his new career, striving to grow the vegetables he wants his farm to produce could be equally exhilarating, and also frustrating.

Tso didn’t actually plan to be a farmer. Soon after he retired, he moved to the New Territories to enjoy an unhurried life.

Since there’s a lot of available space – and time – he decided to grow orchids and vegetables for fun, and also to have some green and leafy things for salad.

While working on his plants, he realized that the activity was quite enjoyable. 

Soon he was enthusiastically talking with neighbors, who are real farmers, on how to grow vegetables, and he found himself so interested in the subject that he decided to become a full-time farmer.

Tso said farming has brought peace and contentment in his life, although it is not as easy as it seems because there are too many things to learn, such as weeding, applying fertilizers, fighting pests, and dealing with unfavorable weather conditions.

Knowing how to grow vegetables is just one part of the endeavor. Soon he realized he had to sell his produce, otherwise it would just go to waste.

It was no easy thing trying to sell his products, an activity that took him all over Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

During his time at ICAC, he only had limited knowledge and experience in selling, employee training and customer service, which he could have applied in his current business.

But despite all the hardships, he eventually got used to the “selling” part of his trade and learned to value that which people normally take for granted.

Now he understands very well what old people tell small children at the dinner table: “Each and every grain of rice is the fruit of toiling farmers.”

Aside from vegetable farming, Tso is also engaged in aquaculture. During a trip to Taichung in Taiwan, he learned about aquaponics, a system in which waste from fish and other aquatic creatures provide the nutrients for plants cultivated in water.

He then replicated the system in Hong Kong by buying a fish farm in Ngau Tam Mei in Yuen Long.

Sewage from a fish farm normally contains sodium nitrite and ammonia which are not good for fish to grow, but these substances are good for growing vegetables after they are decomposed by bacteria, Tso explained.

He is now trying to promote the method, which can help save on water and fertilizer, in Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 26

Translation by Taka Liu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Kenny Tso shares his knowledge and experience in farming; sweet corn is one of the products of his green thumb. Photos: Kenny Tso

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal