CITY-SLICKERS here can now go a little bit country if they want to.
And the place to do it is in Singapore's boondocks, where farms are re-inventing themselves.
Sure, these farms are where you can buy fresh produce - but think also hotel-style villas with terraces looking out onto fields of bananas.
Think spa, seafood restaurant and beer garden with a live band playing by night.
This is what visitors can expect from a stay at the 5ha D'Kranji Farm Resort when it opens in September in north-western Singapore.
Run by Indonesia-based HLH Agri-International, this $10-million venture is the latest and most costly instance of how farms here are marketing themselves.
|What they offer
D'KRANJI FARM RESORT (main head picture)
Visitors can expect a spa, a seafood restaurant and a beer garden with a live band. Opens in September.
Orchid farm in Mandai. Its restaurant, Forrest, opened six months ago.
NYEE PHOE FLOWER GARDEN
In Kranji. Petals and Leaves Bistro is rented out for retreats and weddings. Farm stays planned.
In Neo Tiew Road. Poison ivy bistro opened in 2004. A culinary school is on the cards.
Termed agri-tainment, this business concept draws people to out-of-the-way farms with restaurants, cafes and farm-stay opportunities.
Smaller farms can stay viable with this new income.
To date, eight farms out of 228 here have visitor amenities like food outlets and souvenir shops, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.
HLH hopes to attract 500,000 visitors to D'Kranji Farm Resort every year.
Bollywood Veggies in Neo Tiew Road, owned by former Netball Singapore president Ivy Singh-Lim, added the Poison Ivy bistro to its premises in 2004. A culinary school is on the cards.
The bistro brings in about $400,000 a year. The money is used to cover expenses like rent and wages.
Green Valley Farm at Bah Soon Pah Road in Sembawang opened a cafe serving finger food, made with its produce, last year.
It may also introduce farm stays, said Mr Casey Oh, one of the owners.
Over at Nyee Phoe Flower Garden in Kranji, the three-year-old Petals and Leaves Bistro is rented out for retreats and weddings. Farm stays are also planned.
Nyee Phoe Group's business development manager, MrKenny Eng, said: 'Why should someone come to a farm to buy something rather than go to the supermarket? It must be to experience a different lifestyle.'
This is what engineer Sentiono Tan, 43, and his family hanker for on their visits to the Kranji farms. His daughters aged four, eight and 10 are thrilled to see animals like goats there, he said.
'It's something different to do in our free time besides shopping. It would be nice for families if more farms had places to eat and stay.'
Agri-tainment is good for the farms here, said Mr Eng, adding that more players and public awareness will help sustain these businesses. The additional source of income will also help to cover utilities and other bills.
'Agriculture is a tough industry in Singapore and we need more like-minded players. We need everybody to prosper,' he said.
Mandai's Orchidville orchid farm, for instance, has doubled its weekly visitors to 500 since its restaurant, Forrest, opened six months ago. Takings from the sale of orchids have also doubled to $5,000 every weekend.
The extra income has cushioned it against higher oil and fertiliser prices.
Its managing director, MrJoseph Phua, said the farm's dining facilities encouraged visitors to linger.
'That encourages them to buy more flowers. It's a good synergy,' he said.
He sees agri-tainment as a way of keeping a more relaxed way of life alive here, where things zip along at a hectic pace.
Ms Singh-Lim, who also heads the Kranji Countryside Association, agreed, saying that the rural atmosphere must be retained even as agri-tainment grows.
'We are trying to make sure that this doesn't become another Sentosa,' she said.
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