Take away Chinee

Christian YoungSing's focus is on plants: basil; mint; baby lettuce; baby arugula; micro-greens mix; and nine varieties of individual micro-greens for the restaurant market. 
 - Mark Lyndersay
Christian YoungSing's focus is on plants: basil; mint; baby lettuce; baby arugula; micro-greens mix; and nine varieties of individual micro-greens for the restaurant market. - Mark Lyndersay


My name is Christian YoungSing and I run a hydroponic farm.

My WhatsApp picture is of me with a male wedding group – but that’s the wedding of the last of my friends who got married. I was just a groomsman. I’m the last man standing (unmarried).

I’m really, really grateful that I’m getting the chance live on my own, in an apartment I rent in Cascade, not too far from my parents’ home.

I’d moved in with my girlfriend – and then we broke up. I moved back in with my parents for a week, and I was, like, “Nah!” I wanted my own space.

Away, you can live on your own. Trinidadians, we don’t really get that. Men live in their mother’s house until they get married.

It’s expensive to live on your own. But you learn a lot.

I’m the oldest of four siblings, but two live away.

It could be a difficult position, eldest child, but I haven’t had any issues with it.

The youngest is get away with murder; I’s get all the licks!

I’m still on the fence about family and children.

My priority is to try to get my hydroponic farm up to the scale I want it to be.

It’s also a major concern whether I should bring children into this world at all. The situation we’re in now, globally, it’s a mess on multiple levels.

My parents are very religious but I don’t go to church. I just try to live good. I don’t think about belief very much. It doesn’t make logical sense.

Christian YoungSing checks out his crop. - Mark Lyndersay

An afterlife seems really unlikely to me. I think human beings must really think a lot of themselves, to think they’re entitled to an afterlife.

I don’t really follow sports. For relaxation, I like to drink. I’ll drink wine. Well, rum or wine. I like to lime.

But the liming has cut down considerably. I’m at the age where all the boys have got married and are settling down.

So I’m literally on my own. I don’t go out and party much.

Plus, my kind of party, I have to go away for that!

I like techno. I’m not the quintessential Trinidadian, in that sense. I different.

I don’t listen to much EDM. I much prefer deep house. Which has melody and production values.

Lane Eight just came out with a REL good album.

I went to St Mary’s College, then to Maple Leaf, (which) streamlines you into Canadian university one time.

I did aquaculture in Vancouver, British Columbia. After the first two years of practical aquaculture, I did two years of business back in Ontario.

I was trained in fish and my idea really was aquaphonics, using fish waste to produce the plants.

A special-purpose state company was doing a feasibility study on recirculating tilapia farming and I got to work closely on the spreadsheets, data and analytics.

So I got to figure out that there wasn’t that much money in fish on the small scale I was doing it.

And the risk was massive! The capital outlay is huge, re-circ systems, so much construction, all the filtration…Eight months your money is tied up in fish – and then you get one disease and everything dead!

And then your price ceiling is Chinese imports – at our local labour costs, it just wasn’t feasible.

Now we focus completely on plants: basil; mint; baby lettuce; baby arugula; micro-greens mix; and nine varieties of individual micro-greens for the restaurant market.

Crop cycles depend totally on the crop. Basil might be a month. Mint might be longer, the micro greens shorter.

We supply medium- to high-end restaurants and supermarkets. mainly in Port of Spain, currently, because of the logistics.

It would be relatively easy to grow hydroponic marijuana.

The system is there, I know what to grow it in, I just have to learn the plant. I want to wait until the dust settles (on marijuana legalisation). There may be a set of bobol in this, how it selling and who buying – I ent getting involved in that! I focussing on the food.

I totally believe him when BC Pires tells me his father’s mantra was that a nation that cannot feed itself cannot be truly independent.

We import nearly everything we eat and, though I can’t substitute everything, I think I could substitute a decent chunk of it.

It sounds cliched, but the best thing about the farm is that it’s really rewarding, every day. You wake up and something’s changed. The plants are bigger. Or something else.

I constantly have to be observing. I’ve become patient – which I am not, naturally.

You have pests to deal with, though, luckily, being off the ground, it’s not so much.

It isn’t necessarily a “bad” part, but at this point, I can’t really leave for any extended period of time. I have to pull all the strings behind this whole thing to make it work.

The (workers) might know their tasks but a lot could go wrong in two weeks. A lot could go wrong in one hour: if it’s hot, and a pump goes down, all could fall down. I do go away, but when I come back, something has generally gone wrong, something has died or dried out, and I have to catch up.

A Trini has a free mentality that can be a very good thing, if you’re self-aware, and can use that mental freedom in a thoughtful way.

But I find that Trinis are not really able to be self-aware.

You end up with an “ignorant” Trini – which we have a lot of!

As a Chinese Trinidadian, you hear the racist term “Chinee” from everybody, anybody, anywhere, all the time: “Hey! Chinee!”

You can’t imagine anyone using a racist term for black or Indian people in a flippant, by-the-way kind of way like that, just as a way to call you in the street. And you, as a Chinese person, just have to deal with that!

Sometimes I get angry. Depends on who it is and how they call me. If they’re just on kicks, I don’t bother.

But it’s so unfair. It’s part of the same “thoughtless Trini” thing.

Without wanting to sound cliched, Trinidad and Tobago is home for me. I have all my family here.

And there is a lot of opportunity here. If you’re willing to think outside the box. And work hard.

Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com



"Take away Chinee"

More in this section