More venturing to Lim Chu Kang amid travel restrictions, but farmers say business isn’t what it was
CAP ON TOURS TRIMMED A BIG REVENUE SOURCESafe distancing restrictions on group sizes and activities have clipped demand from one of their largest audience groups – students.“Previously we did learning journey tours in cohorts of 120 students ... To lose that (revenue pillar) was quite sad,” Ms Wan said.
The farm now runs family tours in groups of five people.AdvertisementFor Ms Wan, the farm attractions supplement their main wholesale frog business, which has yet to recover as demand from restaurants has dwindled amid the pandemic.Children on a visit to Jurong Frog Farm. (Photo: Jurong Frog Farm)
It is a similar story at Singapore’s only goat farm.The number of visitors to Hay Dairies picked up steadily over the past few months to hit about 700 a day during weekends, matching pre-pandemic levels.However, business from these walk-in customers is not enough to make up for the shortfall from losing tour groups, said the farm’s owner Leon Hay. headtopics.com
“Before COVID-19, from January to November last year, I entertained 17,000 visitors – including about 12,000 students – on booked tours to the farm," Mr Hay told CNA."This year in the same period, we only had 55 people booked."A Hay Dairies employee milking the farm's goats. (Photo: Cheryl Lin)
“Because I don’t run group tours anymore, it also affects my milk sales," said Mr Hay, pointing to the fact that the tours are a big marketing tool for the milk which is sold at the farm and at supermarkets.He added that overall milk sales have fallen by 40 per cent this year.
At a vegetable farm not far away, about 20 per cent more visitors are dropping by, but the owner has found it challenging to take advantage of the opportunities.“We just don’t have enough manpower to have one guide each for so many small groups,” said the manager of Fire Flies Health Farm Chai Nian Kun.
“So some people come and they don’t know what we are doing (because we don’t have people to explain), they just look around and then leave,” he said.Vegetables grown at Fire Flies Health Farm in Lim Chu Kang. (Photo: Fire Flies Health Farm)HOW TO SUSTAIN INTEREST EVEN WHEN TRAVEL RESTARTS headtopics.com
The farms are also trying to ensure that the interest in their businesses is not a flash in the pan, especially as possibilities for travel begin to open up.Jurong Frog Farm, for instance, is trying to lure repeat visitors with new activities.“We’re coming up with new workshops on frog parchment. That involves treating frog skin and making them into novel products like keychains,” Ms Wan said.
“This is also part of how we want to educate people about sustainability and the push for zero waste on the farm, using these discards to do something else.”READ: Lim Chu Kang to be transformed into high-tech agri-food cluster under SFA master planMr Hay said there is still time to “play around with”, given that aviation experts do not expect global air travel to recover to pre-coronavirus levels until 2024.
That means the farm's new facility, which is due to be completed around end-2022, would come at a good time, he said.Apart from incorporating pandemic-friendly design measuresthat would help them better control the flow of visitors, Mr Hay said there will be a better viewing gallery and maybe a new interaction area with “teenage” goats.
“We’re also aiming to come up with new product lines – gelato, yogurt and prebiotic drinks – as well as an additional strawberry flavour for the goat’s milk. I can’t do this now because my farm doesn’t have the space,” he explained.A goat at Hay Dairies farm in Lim Chu Kang. (Photo: Cheryl Lin) headtopics.com
Both the frog and goat farm are also working with travel agencies to promote their farms to Singapore residents as well as tourists when borders reopen.As for Fire Flies Health Farm, Mr Chai said it is collaborating with non-profit organisation My Community Festival, which is organising tours to various spots in Lim Chu Kang in December.
The farms hope these efforts will be enough to keep drawing visitors to their neck of the woods, in order to raise top-line numbers to what they were before the pandemic. Read more: CNA »