THE west bank of the Hong (Red) River in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District is famous for its traditional flower villages – Tu Lien, Nhat Tan, Quang An and Phu Thuong.
Trees used to celebrate the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday such as the peach trees grown in Nhat Tan and kumquat trees grown in Tu Lien are said to be the best in town.
For over a decade, flower farms have been open for visitors who want to enjoy the spectacle, take photos or just breathe the fresh air in the otherwise crowded city.
“That is the reason why we opened a strawberry farm at the heart of Nhat Tan flower village,” Nguyen An Phuong, sales manager at Chimi Farm Hanoi, said.
The 3,000sqm strawberry farm opened last December and for the last few months, it has attracted young people and families looking for a new farming experience in the city.
The first crop of the temperate fruit grown by Chimi Farm Hanoi is in the process of being harvested.
The farm supplies strawberries for stores and supermarkets in the city, and they’re also available for visitors.
Phuong said that visitors can learn how to nurse the strawberry plants, pick fruit and make strawberry yogurt and other drinks.
“They can enjoy the drinks at the cafe on the farm,” Phuong added.
“Taking photos is free of charge. You pay for the fruit you pick and the drinks,” Phuong said.
It’s about VND 350,000 ($15) per kg of strawberries picked at the farm.
The farm also offers young plants for VND40,000 with instructions on how to tend to them.
Hoang Phuong Thao from Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District said her children really enjoyed the farm.
“They got excited about looking for ripe red strawberries and picking them,” Thao said, adding that the kids burst into laughter whenever they found an odd-shaped fruit or a worm under the leaves.
“The children and I had a good time at the farm as they got to play outdoors and get closer to nature,” Thao said.
She said they would visit the farm again because it was close to their house.
Phuong said the excitement had sparked an idea about farming tourism.
He said he had travelled a lot with friends and enjoyed great experiences during trips across Vietnam, one of the best of which was picking strawberries at farms in the Central Highland city of Da Lat.
“A friend of mine, Vu Van Luc, has always dreamed about starting a strawberry farm since he was a student at the National Economics University,” Phuong said.
After graduating in 2013, Luc went to Da Lat to learn about strawberry farming.
Luc and two other friends were the first to inspire Phuong to start a strawberry farm.
After learning about the farm tour model as well as farming techniques, Phuong said they decided to bring the fruit to his northern province of Son La as the weather there is similar to Da Lat.
“But it was not easy. Most of the 4,000sqm of strawberries that Luc planted in Son La’s Moc Chau Plateau in 2014 died,” Phuong said, forcing them to improve their technique and soil so the plants could adapt better in the northern province.
In 2015, Luc opened Chimi Farm covering one hectare in Ban Ang Hamlet, Dong Sang Commune, Moc Chau Town. The farm was expanded to 6ha last year, offering both fruit and tourism services.
“Chimi Farm Hanoi is a branch of Chimi Farm Moc Chau, which was established to promote Chimi Farm’s strawberries, making the fruit more accessible to consumers in Hanoi and neighbouring provinces,” Phuong said.
Many visitors to Chimi Farm Moc Chau asked if they could find a similar farm in Hanoi and we thought, “Why not?”
“Opening a strawberry farm in Hanoi was a challenge for us,” Phuong said, adding that they had to study the weather, soil and techniques to ensure the plants could adapt.
Winter and spring in Hanoi when the temperature hit 14-28 degrees Celsius are good for strawberries. The plants produce fruit in hot weather. It takes about three months for the fruit to grow, ripen and be harvested. At Chimi farms, the strawberries are organic without any chemical fertilisers.
Phuong said people preferred Chimi strawberries because they understood organic farming and could pick the fruit themselves, “which seemingly adds taste to the fruit”.
Phuong said that they planned to expand the farm tourism model to Sa Pa and another farm in Hanoi.
“Among the city’s concrete jungle, chaotic traffic, crowded streets and domination of automatic technology devices, the availability of farms and manual farm work bring people joy,” Phuong said. Viet Nam News/Asia News Network