CHONGQING－Deng Xingyu, a 77-year-old farmer, worked year after year on his small plot of land, planting crops. So he was surprised to discover that an increasing number of nearby townspeople were heading to his sleepy village eager to pay for a hands-on experience of being a farmer.
Originally from Yuliang Village, Xiushan Tujia and Miao Autonomous County, Chongqing Municipality (southwest China), Deng’s field is now divided into about 22 small plots. Each is rented for 1,280 yuan ($188.56) a year to city dwellers yearning for an idyllic rural living experience, he said.
From June, the local government jumped on the lucrative trend and set up a total of 160 “family farms”.
“City dwellers want a taste of rustic life, so such farms can be a good idea for both city dwellers and local farmers,” said township chief Ai Dehua.
Due to the local topography, the villagers of Yuliang once had difficulty cultivating hillside terraced fields. They could hardly live from agriculture alone, but the idea of renting agricultural plots to tourists helps to maximize the development potential of the available arable land.
“While city dwellers can take advantage of agricultural cycles from planting to harvest for recreation, locals can find new ways to earn money, such as renting plots, helping out as temporary farm laborers and selling drinks to visitors,” Ai said.
In just two months, 120 of the 160 local family farms have been rented. Deng has raised nearly 1,000 yuan so far, a very impressive figure compared to the few hundred yuan he has earned from planting crops in the past.
Yang Xirui, a 32-year-old resident of Jiangjin District in Chongqing, is an enthusiastic participant in the family farm initiative. She has rented a farm plot to pursue a healthier lifestyle and sees it as a good opportunity for her 5-year-old son to learn about rural life.
“Eating fresh vegetables helps ensure a healthier diet, while trying his hand at farming can be a perfect opportunity, allowing my son to learn how to plant,” Yang said.
In July, Yang’s family came to Yu-liang to enjoy the joy of the harvest and managed to pick three bags of vegetables, including cucumbers and eggplant.
Last month, the local government also cleared a muddy area by the river near Yang’s pitch and installed decorative tables and lights for the young townspeople to have fun after dark.
Amid the recent sweltering summer heat, cooler rural areas like Shiye Township with comprehensive entertainment facilities and utilities have gained popularity among city dwellers. The Shiye Family Farm initiative and recreational facilities generated nearly 200,000 yuan for residents.
“This is only our first try, but it serves as a good example for our possible future development patterns regarding rural revitalization,” Ai said, adding that as such small-scale activities do not cause land damage arable, such initiatives can help multiply the value of a small plot of land about fifty times higher.
“Agriculture is in China’s blood. Even though we are experiencing a high degree of urbanization, city dwellers cannot abandon the agrarian culture and way of life that dates back thousands of years,” Pan Yu said. , Professor in the College of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Southwestern University.
“Hands-on farming experiences also have multiple benefits. They help relieve work pressure, cultivate a sense of accomplishment and bring family members closer together,” Pan said.