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‘Leisure Agriculture’ is in vogue in China

The latest statistics from China’s Ministry of Agriculture indicate that, at the end of 2011, more than 700 million tourists from across the country had participated in various leisure agriculture activities.

Web Editor Zhang


It is a fresh, weekend morning after a night of rain at a farm ranch located in Huairou District in suburban Beijing. A number of people are busy working in the fields, planting new seeds, watering vegetables, and harvesting. But these happy workers aren’t actual farmers, but rather city dwellers who choose to spend their weekends farming.

And it’s not only white-collar workers who want to escape the city of steel and concrete; the majority of these “occasional farmers” are retirees. Jia Yanming once conducted research with electron microscopes at the China Science Academy before she retired. Together with her husband, Jia now rents an 800 square meter vegetable greenhouse in Huairou. Jia tells us why she decided to move to the countryside four years ago:

“I felt so bored living my whole life in one of the city’s typical high buildings, breathing the air polluted by car emissions, eating vegetables grown with chemical fertilizers. Now that we have our own piece of land, albeit rented, we feel that we are closer to nature. There is also a great sense of fulfillment when we see the seeds we sow sprout, leaf, bloom, and finally bear fruit.”

Peng Yujiang is in charge of the farm ranch, which employs nearly 200 local farmers and attracts 800 regular “urban farmers” like Jia Yanming and her husband. Though it is still in its initial stage, Peng is confident that his business will thrive. He also talks of other business plans:

“Some of my friends living in the city have asked me whether I can deliver fresh, organic vegetables to their doors. It saves them the trouble of doing vegetable shopping at supermarkets, and gives them more security about the quality of the produce. It inspired me to start the family vegetable distribution business.”

Peng Yujiang is not the only one who benefits from running leisure agriculture ventures. Take the Huairou District of Beijng, for example: currently a total of 76 leisure agriculture business operations exist in the district, with an annual income of around 320 million Yuan.

Professor Wang Xingbin from the Beijing Second Foreign Language Institute has been involved in the research conducted as part of the national tourism industry development plan between 2010 to 2020. He says leisure agriculture has a lot of potential to grow as an industry in China, as more and more middle-class urbanites are pursuing a more natural way of life. He says it’s a win-win situation, with city dwellers getting an authentic farm experience on vacation, while farmers get some much needed labor.

Professor Wang points out that some foreign business operators have already got a piece of the leisure agriculture pie.

Read the complete article here.