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Urbanites try hand at practical farming

China Daily | Updated: 2022-08-17 09:34

A view of the Xiushan Tujia and Miao autonomous county, southwest China's Chongqing municipality. [Photo/VCG]

CHONGQING-Deng Xingyu, a 77-year-old farmer, had been toiling year in and year out on his small patch of land, planting crops. So he was surprised to discover that an increasing number of nearby urbanites were headed to his sleepy village keen to pay for a hands-on experience of being a farmer.

Hailing from Yuliang village, Xiushan Tujia and Miao autonomous county, Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, Deng's field is now divided into about 22 small plots. Each is leased for 1,280 yuan ($188.56) per year to city slickers who yearn for an idyllic rural life experience, he said.

Beginning in June, the local government has jumped onto the lucrative trend and has set up a total of 160 "family farms".

"Urbanites want to get a taste of the rustic life so such farms can be a good idea for both city folk and local farmers," said Ai Dehua, head of the township.

Owing to the local topography, Yuliang villagers once faced difficulties cultivating hillside terraced fields. They could hardly make a living from farming alone, but the idea of leasing agricultural plots to tourists helps maximize the development potential of available arable land.

"While city dwellers can enjoy farming cycles from planting to reaping for leisure, locals can find new ways to make money such as by leasing the plots, helping as temporary farmworkers and selling beverages to visitors," Ai said.

In just about two months, 120 out of the total 160 local family farms had been rented out. Deng has so far garnered nearly 1,000 yuan, a very impressive figure compared to the few hundred yuan he earned from planting crops in the past.

Yang Xirui, a 32-year-old resident of Chongqing's Jiangjin district, is an enthusiastic participant in the family farm initiative. She rented an agricultural plot to pursue a healthier lifestyle and she deems it a good opportunity for her 5-year-old son to learn about rural life.

"Eating fresh vegetables helps ensure a healthier diet while trying our hands at farming can be a perfect opportunity, which allows my son to learn about planting," Yang said.

In July, Yang's family came to Yu-liang to enjoy the joy of harvest, and managed to pick three sacks of vegetables, including cucumbers and eggplant.

Last month, the local government also cleared a muddy area by the riverside near Yang's plot and set up tables and decorative lights for young city dwellers to enjoy themselves after nightfall.

Amid the recent sweltering summer heat, cooler rural areas like Shiye township with complete entertainment facilities and public services have gained popularity among urbanites. Shiye's family farm initiative and its supporting leisure facilities have generated nearly 200,000 yuan for locals.

"This is just our first trial, but it serves as a good example for our future possible development models regarding rural revitalization," Ai said, adding that as such small-scale activities do not cause damage to arable land, such initiatives can help multiply the value of a small piece of farmland some fifty-fold.

"China has farming in its blood. Even if we are experiencing a high degree of urbanization, city dwellers cannot abandon the agrarian culture and way of life that date back thousands of years," said Pan Yu, a professor at the College of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Southwest University.

"Hands-on farming experiences also have multiple benefits. They help to relieve work pressure, cultivate a sense of accomplishment and bring family members together," Pan said.


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