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July 31, 2020

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Peach growers ripe for better management

TAO Lijie, 32, quit her civil service job in 2017 to join her mother in operating an organic peach orchard at the Taoyong farm cooperative in Xinchang Town.

The 33-hectare farm, which her mother He Mingfang started in rural Pudong, has grown into one of Shanghai’s biggest peach suppliers. To improve the business, He turned to help from her daughter.

Tao studied traditional Chinese medicine at university and was working in disease control for the government when she decided to join her mother at the farm. It’s actually a large operation that also grows grapes, pears, strawberries, mulberries, figs and pumpkins among other fruits and vegetables.

Tao’s task was to streamline daily operations at the farm and expand its sales channels.

“My mother used to be the one everyone turned to when they needed to ask about something, but that made communications very inefficient,” Tao said of the first and foremost problem she spotted at the cooperative.

Tao promoted some of the more efficient farmers at the cooperative to executive posts handling various aspects of the business. That made jobs like sales more professional and made people in charge of them more accountable. Another problem Tao addressed was the random stacking of harvest boxes, making it difficult to access specific fruits and vegetables easily and quickly.

Tao established an annual routine whereby workers reorganize the warehouse during the slower winter months, making it easier to find products.

The Nanhui area, where Xinchang Town is located, is famous for its peaches. The best of Taoyong peaches are sold at 25 yuan (US$3.6) each in gift boxes, while the wholesale price of peaches in Shanghai produce markets is about 10 yuan per kilogram.

“We will never drop the organic standards of our peaches,” Tao said, “but we have to adapt to the fact that most of our customers now are from retail channels and the Internet.”

She now has a team of 11 that runs Taoyong’s online shops. The team also does live product promotions on the Internet, adopting a popular sales format.

Peaches delivered from the farm to customers are usually only 70 percent ripe to prevent them from decaying during delivery, but more customers are wanting to come to the farm in person and pick the fruit.

“They can taste the sweetest fruit off the branches, feed our rabbits and enjoy tasty cuisine straight from rural kitchens and drawn from our fish ponds and flocks of chickens and geese,” Tao said.

Tao, drawing on her training in traditional Chinese medicine, now has a new project. She’s having Chinese mugwort planted among the peach trees. The plant, which is native to China, is used in the traditional treatment of moxibustion, or burning the herb on specific acupoints of a patient’s body to provide disease therapy.

“Weeds don’t grow where the mugwort is, which saves us the labor of weeding, and the mugwort we harvest will be used in our traditional Chinese medicine salon,” Tao said.

The salon was originally created for farmers working on the farm, who were mostly older people. Now it is open to all customers.


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