The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

New Model of Organic Farming Sprouting in Chinese Suburbs

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By Wan Su: Caixin Online

Farmers are contracting with customers to provide a year’s worth of produce, an approach one academic says could be viable.

(Beijing) – A new model of locally organized organic farming has taken root in Beijing and Shanghai in recent years, and an academic says it could be a viable way for the industry to blossom.

The model – an alternative to large-scale organic farming – sees farmers in the suburbs of large cities grow produce on their own or in groups. They then sell the fruits and vegetables to city-dwellers.

Du Xiangge, a professor at China Agricultural University, said recently that this approach could be an efficient way to develop the industry.

Increasingly affluent Chinese consumers are showing greater interest in organic products, largely due to food-safety concerns. The country is set to become the world’s largest market for organic foods in the next five to 10 years, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements says.

However, insiders say the industry presents challenges in terms of production and management. The industry is labor- and knowledge-intensive, and is demanding in its requirements for fertilizer and pesticide use. In these early stages of the industry, insiders say large-scale organic farming is proving difficult.

These problems with large-scale farming have created an opportunity for small farmers. They are essentially borrowing a model of locally based of agriculture and distribution that began in the United States in the 1980s.

Two examples in Beijing are Little Donkey Farm and Sharing Harvest. Little Donkey, established in 2008, has hired more than 70 farming households to plant for the company. It has more than 1,000 customers.

Sharing Harvest buys organic products from farmers and has more than 500 customers.

These two companies employ a model that sees customers sign contracts with farmers, who are paid in advance for a year’s worth of produce.

In this way, customers and farmers shoulder production risks together, and farmers do not need to worry about price fluctuations.

Chang Tianle, an organizer of the organic farmers fair in Beijing, said the business has thrived, but better government regulation was needed to ensure produce was indeed organic.

Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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