The small farms dotting the north-western landscape that have offered eco-tourism activities for years have been recognised as a tourist attraction called the Kranji Farms.
Two brown directional signs, endorsed and approved by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), identifying the area as a tourist point of interest, were put up late last year in Jalan Bahar and Kranji Road.
There are over 100 farms in total, and at least 40 are open to the public, offering farmstays, tours and food & beverage outlets.
Farmers hope that Kranji countryside’s new status as a tourist destination – which will be launched on Saturday by the owners, STB, LTA and MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Yee Chia Hsing – will help the agriculture industry attract new blood, and be an incentive for the authorities to make the area more visitor-friendly.
Mr Kenny Eng, 42, president of the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA), said: “The recognition is critical for the future of farms, because it makes farm businesses more dynamic, more sustainable in the digital age and more able to attract young talent.”
The non-profit KCA, which has 40 member farms, has lobbied for the Kranji farms to be recognised as a tourist spot – and for the road signs – since it was set up in 2005.
KCA’s founding president Ivy Singh-Lim, 66, owner of organic farm Bollywood Veggies, hopes the authorities will add cycling and walking paths, to help the countryside attract not only local families but visitors from abroad as well.
“Things here are reasonably cheap, and they can enjoy the kampung lifestyle,” she said. “I would like to appeal to the authorities to leave this place alone … so that we can continue to sell coffee at $2.”
Over the years, the farms have introduced activities for school children, company retreats and amenities such as restaurants for walk-in visitors, as interest grew in the unusual experiences they offered.
Bollywood Veggies attracted 15,000 visitors a month last year, compared to 6,000 per month in 2010. The official tour operator for Kranji Farms, Uncle William, held 250 tours last year, up from the 160 in 2010.
The farms that are open to the public grow an array of produce and live stock including organic vegetables, ornamental fish, food fish, frogs and goats.
Shuttle buses make seven trips daily between Kranji MRT station and points of interest such as Sungei Buloh, Kranji marshes and five of the more popular farms.
Two years ago, Jurong Frog Farm started organising small group tours at $40 for a minimum of five people. The 25-minute tour lets visitors hold and feed frogs, watch them breed, and ends with a sampling of frog meat. It now attracts three to five groups per week, said its director Chelsea Wan, 32.
The 105-year-old nursery and landscaping business Nyee Phoe Group, where Mr Eng is a director, has an F&B outlet, four villas for farmstays and conducts workshops on terrarium-making and plant potting.
Farm owners say demand keeps growing, with people hungry for something different.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said tourists tend to think of Singapore as an urbanised environment.
“Kranji countryside presents a different side of Singapore,” he added.
This article was first published on March 08, 2016.
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