Exploring Hong Kong’s Hello Kitty Garden
The Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm in Hong Kong was surprisingly easy to find, its verdant stretches a mere three-minute walk from Kam Sheung Road MTR (Hong Kong’s subway), which is only a 40-minute ride away from Central (what you would call the city center).
In recent years, “weekend farming” has become a popular activity for Hong Kongers looking to de-stress and produce their own organic vegetables, but as someone living in Hong Kong I had never been to one of these farms, so I was curious to see what it would be like. The ambivalent yet friendly-seeming Hello Kitty (who, it was recently revealed by Sanrio, is not a cat) greeted us at the front door when we arrived and walked across a footbridge to enter the farm. The Hello Kitty Farm is about 50,000 square feet, which doesn’t translate into a lot of space if you are used to what “farms” are like in the U.S., so it would be more fitting to call it a large “garden.”
The plots were divided up into smaller ones that were rented out, with little signs that were labelled to indicate individual spaces. A class about potting plants was going on as we walked past to get to the gift shop, where plush toys and trinkets featuring the unique “Farmer Hello Kitty” iconography were sold.
Next to the gift shop was a tented area with chairs laid out for events and an open space that was decorated for weddings, and I wondered how many hardcore Hello Kitty fans would choose to have their ceremony held there. No one was using the barbeque pits that Saturday, but there were about a dozen families and groups of friends taking care of their plots at the farm. There was also a school group on tour led by one of the staff members, who showed them around and discussed the environmental benefits of “going green” and growing organic. We even had a visit with the garden’s pet pig, and ended up feeding some cheery-looking goats.
The History of Hello Kitty’s Farm
Raymond Cheng, the founder of the Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm, first became aware of food safety issues while he was working in China back in 2010. He started farming part-time as a hobby, and grew increasingly serious about the job. He bought his own plot and began running the organic farm full-time in 2013, with the aim of promoting organic farming, environmental consciousness, and a low-carbon lifestyle. The process of constructing the farm was not easy as he was faced with rising rent (a problem even in the rural areas of Hong Kong) as well as single-handedly claiming responsibility for all the cutting, weeding, and plowing, which he did himself. Two years later, he now has 10 full-time staffers to help him.
Visitors to the farm range from families with small children to couples and individuals who want to grow their own food or enjoy a day out in nature. There are covered areas for barbecues, parties, and other events. Schools and community centers also organize tour groups to the farm, which provides a great opportunity to educate kids about nature and gardening by harnessing the power of pop culture.
What They Grow
The Hello Kitty Farm grows an array of different vegetables and fruits: strawberries, carrots, beetroot, corn, and more. Vegetables like Choy Sum and a type of lettuce called Celtuce, both of which are common in China, are also grown at the farm.
How To Get A Plot
Visitors can rent out a plot to grow their own vegetables, or families with children can take part in the two-and-a-half month “Hello Kitty Farmer Program” to grow their own seasonal vegetables. The program is designed to incentivize children to become interested in farming by providing them with cute Hello Kitty tools to farm with at the Hello Kitty-themed garden. A tutor will provide the necessary guidance for families, as well.
Why “Go Green”? Why “Hello Kitty”?
When Cheng founded the farm in 2013, “Go Green” was a popular slogan for environmental awareness and action in Hong Kong, so he decided to use it as the name of the company under which the farm is incorporated. The farm was a long-term collaboration that started during the year of Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday celebration in 2014. Raymond was looking for ways to grow his farm, when he happened to meet a visitor at the farm who worked at Sanrio (the official home of Hello Kitty & Friends). The conversation resulted in a partnership deal, and the farm was transformed into a Hello Kitty fan’s paradise in just three months time. You can buy “Farmer Hello Kitty” miniature plush toys, reusable shopping bags, banner flags, and flower pots. They also sell their own vegetables at the gift shop.
“Edu-tainment” and The Future of Hello Kitty Farming
There are over 100 organic farms in Hong Kong, but this is the only organic farm in the world that Sanrio and Hello Kitty have collaborated with (they haven’t even done this in Japan!). In recent years, and especially with food scandals in China, people in Hong Kong are becoming increasingly aware of organic food and where their food is being produced. There are several “farmers markets” on weekends, but more commonly, people buy from wet markets that sell local produce or shops that specialize in organic foods.
Cheng’s goal is to provide “edu-tainment” for Hong Kongers at the Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm. Between the “Hello Kitty Farmer Program” and opportunities to feed the goats, dogs, cats, and pig that live on site, there are also arts and crafts classes to make Hello Kitty-shaped soap, clay figures, or other decorations, as well as tours and classes on the basics of organic farming. Many schools and community centers arrange day tours to visit the farm and learn about organic food and farming from the guides on site– one garden, under Hello Kitty.