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August 31, 2009

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Farmers pool resources to reap harvest

A RETURN to collective farming could help boost the success of a scheme where city dwellers rent land in Qingpu District to grow fresh vegetables, according to a farm manager.

About 200 families each have rented their own 66-square-meter plot in Cenbo Village for 600 yuan (US$87.84) a year. The cost includes vegetable seeds, organic fertilizer and management of the land. They also get to keep all the vegetables they grow on their allotments.

However, farm manager Cai Xinhuan said many vegetables have been wasted this summer because the growers don't have the time to come and pick their crops.

To save produce going to waste, he wants to coordinate the 200 plots and allow each grower to take home fresh vegetables each time they visit by picking them from other plots, after gaining permission from the other farmers.

In essence, the mini farms would become a collective farm, where each grower has access to the produce of other farmers.

"Although we have hired four farmers to take care of the crops, they are still too busy to harvest all the produce on the 200 plots. Many vegetables like tomatoes easily go bad," said Cai.

The plots can each produce about 20 kilograms of vegetables every week in the peak season, with some even reaching 30, he said. "People probably aren't coming because of the hot weather and it's also a bit far from downtown."

The idea to pool resources has won the backing of several tenants, including Wu Tong. "I'm happy about the idea. If I can't harvest my vegetables in time, it's better to give them to others than let them go bad." Wu lives and works in downtown Shanghai and tends to his farm plot every week.

The farm, operated by Cenbo Village, was designed to boost tourism to the district, and last month opened a hotel on the land to allow tenants to stay for a weekend or take a holiday in the countryside.


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