Farm tourism in Singapore – lessons for HK?

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    Just found a newspaper item I’d kept, about an association of farms in Singapore that’s working on promoting tourism. – Kranji Countryside Association Found the same article and some more info via Google search. Relevant to Hong Kong I think; also, notice Singapore Tourism Board is interested. "

    Nestled in the undeveloped outer northwest of the tiny Southeast Asian island alongside a wildlife sanctuary, the farmers are tapping into a strong undercurrent in society by promoting a slower, more traditional way of life. "People are bored in Singapore. They hate going to shopping centres," says Ivy Singh-Lim, the flamboyant co-founder of Bollywood Veggies, an organic farm that grows more than 400 varieties of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Singh-Lim is also the president of the Kranji Countryside Association, a newly formed union of 10 farms in the area that has banded together to attract locals as well as foreigners and protect what’s left of Singapore’s farmland. Most of Singapore’s agricultural sector has been destroyed during the city-state’s turbo drive from third-world status at the time of independence in 1965 to today’s lifestyle in which its citizens are among the richest in Asia. … "The countryside is good for the soul, but in Singapore not many people have anything to do with it at all," says the 55-year-old former property developer, who set up her farm three years ago as a retirement project with her husband. … "(But) our leaders don’t like sun or surf or wind. Only golf courses."

    "Our vision is to create a greater countryside for Singapore and to keep the countryside as it is. We don’t want it to become another HDB," Singh-Lim says, referring to the Housing Development Board skyscraper complexes. "What we intend to do is highlight the fact that Singapore is not just a city. It’s a beautiful little country." The association’s first forays into self promotion resulted in an unexpected and unprecedented response, with a five-day "Spring Festival" in January attracting 18,000 people to farms more used to seeing a handful of weekly visitors. "It just shows that people in Singapore are looking for a countryside to go to," Singh-Lim says. … "The farmers hope that we can develop this area into a beautiful little Margaret River or Napa Valley," she said, referring to the trendy bed and breakfast tourist regions in Western Australia and the United States. "We could have our own Sungei Buloh Valley… we’ll promote the countryside and push environmentally friendly practices so it becomes a lifestyle that permeates throughout the community," Singh-Lim said. The Kranji Countryside Association’s efforts have been largely independent so far. But the Singapore Tourism Board, which normally focuses on attracting mass market foreign tourists to places such as the Orchard Road shopping strip, the Zoo and Sentosa resort island, are also starting to take notice. "The Singapore Tourism Board is encouraged to see that farmers have come together and embraced the idea of agri-tourism as well as to promote the concept of Kranji countryside," the board’s sightseeing and cruise director, Chang Chee Pey, told AFP. "This will offer our visitors more alternatives and enable them to discover the unique and enriching experiences that Singapore has to offer beyond the traditional tourist areas."

    FARMERS in Kranji criticised for offering a ‘disorganised’ carnival last weekend will be doubling the number of buses to the farms, and mobilising more staff to handle the crowds this weekend. More than 6,000 people visited the farms on Sunday alone, leading to frustration among those who had to wait for the bus. … Mr Eng said: ‘We hope people don’t turn their backs on the last vestiges of rural living in Singapore. ‘Only with public awareness of Kranji, can we hope to preserve our farms for our sons and daughters.’ … Did anybody bother to look up and notice that, for once, they could see a perfect sunset because their view of the skyline was not marred by tall buildings in the distance? Did they try to explore the farms themselves, instead of bristling at the fact that there were not enough farmhands to give them a tour, or tell them where to go and what to see? One father commented to Ms Srinivas that his child could probably learn more about nature at the zoo, because there are signboards there giving details about the animals he encounters. But that is comparing apples to oranges. The zoo is built for visitors; farms, mostly not. The countryside is meant to be a little rough around the edges, a little footloose. That’s what sets it apart from the city. I’m not making excuses for the farmers and the inadequate provisions they made for the hordes of visitors. But if we can endure two-hour jams at the Causeway with nary a thought, surely we can be more forgiving of these Kranji farmers, who dug into their own pockets to make sure those without cars could get a free ride to the countryside.

    The Kranji countryside is now accessible by bus, thanks to the extension of SMRT’s 925 service. … There are 114 fruit, vegetable, decorative plant, dairy and fish farms in the Kranji area and, until now, they were accessible only by car or taxi. Visitors can tour the farms and buy produce. There are also restaurants on some of the farms that serve their own fresh produce. … Mrs Ivy Singh-Lim, president of the Kranji Countryside Association, said: ‘I’m delighted with the new service and hope it will bring more life to the farms here.’ The association, formed by 10 farmers to promote the Kranji area as a recreational and educational venue, began discussions with SMRT on buses for the area after 18,000 visitors attended its five-day spring carnival in January. The farmers had arranged for private shuttle buses to pick passengers from Boon Lay and Kranji MRT stations. Response had been overwhelming. SMRT director of buses Morris Piper said: ‘This is a trial service and we will monitor the response over the next three months. If the demand is high, we will consider running the extended service on Saturdays too.’ Southwest Community Development Council Mayor Amy Khor, who launched the service yesterday, said: ‘Singapore’s landscape is highly urbanised, so few realise that we, too, have a countryside and farms. ‘It is always a nice and rare treat to visit Kranji, and I hope that the new service will bring greater awareness to the public of our gem of a countryside.’

    Bus 925 now plies Kranji farm area Singapore tourism site has page on farms, with links to some of Kranji farms:

    Agricultural Farms Wild Singapore has page inc Kranji farms: Farms to visit near Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve

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