Farm. Food. Hello Kitty.
Hello Kitty is a cat, a busy cat indeed.
Since Sanrio introduced this character in 1974, the cat (yes, we insist that she’s a cat) has made her way into multiple jobs, including a flight attendant for EVA Air’s Hello Kitty Jets. This year, she has stepped into a new field and started new career: an organic farmer.
Opened in July of last year, Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm in Hong Kong is the world’s first Hello Kitty-themed farm. The project is a collaboration between Sanrio and farmer Raymond Cheng, who founded this 50,000-square-foot organic farm back in 2010.
Working as a farmer requires giving Kitty-chan a new, proper outfit. Therefore, at this farm the famous cat is seen in blue overalls, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and holding a hand-picked carrot in her left hand. (It’s our assumption that the carrot was hand-picked because it’s a low-carbon farm.) Regardless of how busy farm work is, she never forgets to wear her iconic red bow.
At the farm, Hello Kitty is everywhere and is responsible for many things. Her standee greets visitors at the entrance. She waits on walkways, telling directions. She gives farming tips at the plots on instructional signs. She’s on the guide map, at the cafe and at the store (along with Kitty scarecrow dolls and other souvenirs). Her image even appears on melons from this farm.
Kids can enjoy “Hello Kitty Little Farmer Program,” which they will get to take care of their own farm plot.
The farm was designed to appeal to both kids and adults. Kids can enjoy the “Hello Kitty Little Farmer Program,” where they will get to take care of their own 2-foot-by-2.5-foot plot on the farm. They’ll learn all basic stuff they need to know in order to be a mini farmer: how to plant, how to irrigate and how to harvest. Once they’re enrolled in this program, they can come to the farm to check and take care of their plants as often as they want to. And it’s more than okay for them to also stop by to say hi to a farm dog and feed goats, sheep and a pig. After two and a half months of being a farmer, kids graduate from the program.
Adults may care less about the farm’s playful theme and more about finding an antidote to urban ennui. Hong Kong is one of the most stressful cities in the world; many visitors seek a place that will add some natural balance to their life. Anyone can rent some space from Cheng to plant crops. Free planting classes are available for those who don’t have a background in farming. More intense training courses, like how to manage an organic farm, are also offered.
It may not be 100 percent correct to say that this is the first Hello Kitty-themed farm, if a virtual one counts. In July 2012, Sanrio launched “Hello Kitty’s Garden.” The storyline for this farming sim is that Hello Kitty wants to do her own gardening with her friends. Other Sanrio familiar characters — Keroppi, Badtz Maru, My Melody, Pochacco and Dear Daniel — appear in the game, helping Kitty plant millet and wheat, nurturing her patches and harvesting pumpkins and cherries. The game also celebrates eating locally because virtual townsfolk eat the produce from Kitty’s prolific garden.
The Hong Kong farm isn’t Kitty’s only foray into the food industry. Last month, a Hello Kitty food truck was spotted on the streets of Orange County, California. The pink truck, serving pastries, cakes and doughnuts, which took another trip in Santa Monica on December 21, is a foretaste of the first Hello Kitty Cafe in the U.S. in 2015. With the concept of “super cute culinary,” Sanrio has opened Hello Kitty Cafes in several major international cities. The most recent one is in Bangkok.
Sanrio also allows their most popular character’s trademark on a large number of food products, ranging from roasted seaweed to Jelly Belly jelly beans, from juices to wines. Some products are even certified organic, like the Kitty-shaped organic pasta (you can get them in farm animal shapes, too.
Also, earlier this year Re-ment, a Japanese collectible toy brand, launched Hello Kitty Bokujo or Hello Kitty Farm Life collection. With eight sets in the collection, these tiny toys depict Hello Kitty working on a dairy farm, chicken farm and apple orchard.
As for the real farm, neither Sanrio nor the farm owner has revealed if they will continue the theme farm in Hong Kong after their two-year contract ends in 2016. But with the $759m in annual revenue that Kitty makes from more than 50,000 products in over 70 countries, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Cheng decides to keep the cat in his future business plan.
Photos courtesy Hello Kitty Go Green Organic Farm Facebook page.