LABIS: When Tang Chon Chon first started his Labis Sunrise fruit farm a couple of kilometres from town, he never thought he would one day run a homestay business and venture into eco-tourism.
It all began innocently enough with customers who stopped by Tang’s shop, asking whether they could visit the farm they were buying fruits from.
As word spread and visitors began arriving in tour buses instead of cars, that was when the long-time farmer realised he had to expand his business.
“I received encouragements from tour operators, and even local MP Datuk Chua Tee Yong and his office brought support from the Segamat district office and the TV stations, to boost this district’s eco- tourism,” Tang said.
Now, Sunrise Farm not only runs its core agriculture business, but also boasts an 18-room homestay complete with restaurant and spa service.
At first, Sunrise Farm’s hospitality was just a simple attap house built for guests to enjoy fruits on a hilltop, which back then was still a rubber plantation.
“Then, the guests remarked that the view was very nice, especially at sunrise and sunset,” Tang said, gesturing towards the distant Titiwangsa Range in the east.
“From here, we can also catch sights of Gunung Ledang and Gunung Maokil in Pagoh as well, and in early dawn, people enjoy watching the morning mist rise, it’s like a classical Chinese painting,” said Tang.
Unsurprisingly, weekends and holiday seasons are the busiest for Sunrise Farm, teeming with Singaporean tourists as well as folk from major towns.
These days, Tang’s three eldest children help out with running the farm.
“Once I finished building the chalet and recreation area, they have been responsible for managing the place, with that I can focus on farming,” he said with a laugh.
“There’s still so much to do, because we started as a farm and went into something totally new like eco-tourism, it’s not as simple as we thought, and we faced problems we did not expect,” Tang said.
Most importantly, he added, was to “take one step at a time”, as such a switch needed passion to carry it through.
“You will need to do a lot of the things all by yourself, we even design the homestay and recreation area, but you get a sense of satisfaction, especially when having fulfilled the guests’ needs,” he said.
Did you find this article insightful?