For many Singaporeans, life revolves around high rise flats and a corporate job. But at a quiet spot in the Kranji countryside, these young farmers ply their trade.
Tucked in northwestern Singapore is an area known as the Kranji countryside. Approximately 400 hectares of land is home to 100 outfits, dealing with anything from organic vegetables to quail and goat’s milk.
It is a quiet haven for those looking to take a break from city life. Wild chicken run free, taking older generations back to the days of their childhood.
This tranquility will soon be disrupted. As soon as June 2017, the relocation of 62 farms is expected to start, freeing up land for Ministry of Defence purposes. Farms will have to bid for smaller Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore sites in Sungei Tengah and Lim Chu Kang.
What is less obvious is that the move will not just affect middle-aged veterans. There is a small but growing group of young Singapore farmers, who have accepted both the joys and sacrifices of the livelihood.
A guide holds up frogs at a tour of the Jurong Frog Farm.
From left to right: Zheng Xun, 23, Chelsea Wan, 33 and Jackson Wan, 27
The Jurong Frog Farm has a lease that will expire in 2017, according to its director Chelsea Wan. “The older generation is telling the younger generation not to come into the industry. Besides the short lease, it’s also a job where you need to toil in the heat,” the 33-year-old said.
She started helping out in her father’s farm after graduation, learning to do everything from repairs to maintenance, before moving to a managing role.
“There is a lot of potential in Singapore’s farming industry. We try to think about nutrition in the production process and choose the relevant farming techniques,” she said. “Of course, we can’t pay as well as a bank would.”
Today, Ms Wan runs the frog farm with her brother Jackson, 27, who started work last July after a short stint in the private sector.
“I remember chasing spiders and playing with frogs, dogs and fish on the farm in my childhood. It’s something I will never forget,” he said.
“Things are easier outside. After a work day ends, you go home and don’t worry about anything. With a family business, any problems and issues are always on my mind.”
Students gather after their tour of the Jurong Frog Farm on a weekday afternoon.
The farm also has young employees like Zheng Xun, 23, who started work in March. He lives on the farm on weekdays, performing tasks like conducting school tours and sales. Days start from as early as 6am.
At night, the Wan family and workers often have home-cooked dinners featuring locally grown ladyfingers and tilapia.
“I’m someone who needs to feel emotionally attached to my job. The bulk of the work here is very rewarding as it has educational value,” he said.
“I think farms add to our heritage and culture. What we have is organic food and a history. It’s something you cannot build over by building stuff up,” he added. “Singapore talks about being a garden city, but we really are a concrete jungle.”
Jurong Frog Farm
56 Lim Chu Kang Lane 6
Open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, 9am to 5.30pm