Twenty years ago, if you asked Richmondite Arthur Huang whether he would be willing to work as a farmer in Canada, he'd have probably shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
Fast forward to today and, you drive by 10111 Palmberg Road – just northwest of Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road – you’ll likely find Huang, with sweat on his face, busily preparing the soil and watering crops on his five-acre farm from dawn till dusk.
For Huang, farming isn't a "punch in, punch out" job, and sometimes he needs to go in the middle of the night or during the weekend to check on his crop.
Although it seems exhausting work for some, Huang never complains a single word.
And he never allows a visitor to his farm to leave with empty hands - their cars will be stuffed with freshly harvested corns, cucumbers and big watermelons.
"Hopefully, my vegetable growing skills meet their expectations," laughed Huang, who immigrated to Richmond in 2004 from China, where, at the age of five, he lived on a farm and developed a strong interest in the country life.
In addition to growing seasonal vegetables, Huang is now working on his dream project by transforming the five-acre farm into a large-scale tea-growing operation within the next few years.
He has planted jasmine flower, green and white tea seeds in a greenhouse and hopes that one day, people could gaze at the rows upon rows of tea plants.
But it’s not all been plane-sailing for Huang, who has faced some challenges during the tea-planting process, including this summer's extreme heatwave, which destroyed some of his tea seeds, which were imported from the United States.
"Another challenge is that tea normally grows best in areas with high humidity and acidic soil, but Richmond's soil turns slightly alkaline. Therefore, I need to spend more time adjusting the soil PH after planting," said Huang.
And if farming and growing tea isn’t time-consuming enough, Huang is also an art collector and owner of an art gallery in Chinatown, the profits from which were used to keep the farm running in the early years.
"Some friends told me to retire and chill at home, especially in the years when you might make $0 or have zero days off,” said Huang.
“But I have so much pleasure from being outside under the sun, breathing the fresh air, looking at my crops and talking with visitors.
"I also hope one day, global travellers can drop by here to have some tea meditation before heading home. In the future, (I hope that) Richmond isn't just about the best place to eat Chinese food in North America but also a wonderful place to drink some organic tea.”
Huang added that he is wondering as much as the next person what Richmond’s own Chinese tea is going to taste like.
"My dad used to tell me the tastes of tea varies on different soils, lands and countries,” said Huang. “So I am curious to find out what the Richmond cup of tea will taste like?"