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July 24, 2010

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Picking fruits and 'adopting' trees

JULY is hot and dry, but it's the harvest month for cool, juicy and sweet fruit of many kinds. This is picking season for peaches and pears in Fengxian District, so take your sun hat and roll up your sleeves.

Happy Farm in Zhuanghang Village, which opens for picking next Wednesday, is a good place to get away from the downtown city and spend a quiet day in green fields.

The 3-hectare orchard of 2,300 trees offers some of the city's best and sweetest pears -- Cuiguan, Qingxiang and Huanghua varieties -- ready for the picking. It's all organic.

Pears can reach 350 grams each.

"Take a bite of its juicy and sweet flesh, you feel there's a water pump in your mouth," says Happy Farm founder Li Yingchun.

The farm is an organic one, with free-range chickens, geese and ducks wandering around, feeding on the insects and worms in the trees as well as the overripe fruit.

Admission is 10 yuan (US$1.48) a person. But to take fruit home, the price is 6 yuan for 500 grams.

Li's farm lets visitors adopt everything, from fruit trees to goats, and monitor the adoptees' progress via their computers back home.

Early this year, the farm launched its official website (, where adopters can get real-time information of the trees and animals they own. They can watch the irrigation and see their trees grow.

"We'll also post the latest photos of the trees and animals to the Internet, letting their owners see them whenever they want," Li says.

The adopted trees bear signs saying "no picking allowed."

Li plans to go further.

"By the end of the year, I'll install cameras in every corner, linked to the computers of the adopters. Each and every chicken and tree can be monitored 24 hours and they can be viewed at any time," Li says.

There's more.

Li wants to set up an automatic sprinkler system, connected with adopters' computers.

"I'm developing new software that will enable people to water their trees just by clicking the mouse as they sit at home at their computers. I'm the first in the country to try this."

Li will also upload agriculture lessons and information about watering so people will know how to water their trees in a scientific way.

The entire project is to be completed in two years.


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