Small-scale eco-farmers are key to the government’s push for sustainability. Can they overcome the challenges? Wang Chen investigates
Seventeen families gathered to take part in Time Farm’s sports day earlier this year, attracted perhaps by the unusual nature of the activities, which included a vegetable hauling competition and a weeding race.
The eco-farm’s founder, Gu Yingjun, hoped the event would help promote ideas of agricultural sustainability and build closer links with his customers.
The 48-year-old established the farm in Jiangning, a district of Nanjing in Jiangsu province, in 2012, after quitting his job as an IT consultant in the banking sector. A year later, the government announced plans to create a “resource-conserving and environmentally friendly agriculture sector” by 2020. Gu had chosen the right time to make his move. But mainstream agriculture keeps prices low, and Gu’s farming methods are laborious and costly. It was six years before his farm broke even.
“Despite our high costs, we can’t put prices up or things won’t sell. We need to price our products within an acceptable range,” Gu explained.
This, in a nutshell, is the obstacle to China’s agricultural transition.