Beijing’s has plenty of farms that grow fresh, organic produce. If you’re ever thinking about going to one, here are places and things you should look.
De Run Wu
Operating since 2004, Alison Wang and her husband Ji Yunliang named the farm “House of Virtue”, after the teachings of Confucius. Dr Ji Yunliang decided to leave his post-doctorate at Peking University after joining an environmental protection club. After realising his calling was to work with farmers, he left the university and poured his time and resources on working with farmers, connecting them to students and customers through organic farming.
While Ji believes that there is nothing that is truly 100% organic, considering everything that goes into it. He emphasises his use of natural growing methods do not involve pesticides, instead growing crops 20 feet apart so he can control any problem via natural means. The farm grows crops year round, with 100 varieties to choose from, with 30 to 50 types available at a time. They’re grown in covered greenhouses with large dug-out root cellar that stores produce during the winter.
De Run Wu also works with farmers to help them grow crops that they have little experience with or want to introduce into their crop rotations. They also offer organic products such as soap, shampoo, grains, flour, and cleaning supplies, all completely home-grown at the farm and organic.
De Run Wu Room 813, 60 Shunhuang Lu, DanshuiTown, Chaoyang district (8459 0809; email@example.com).
No membership is necessary (but available).
Produce sells for 20RMB per kilo with a four kilo minimum order and 20RMB delivery fee.
Speciality items such as fruit by the case are specially priced.
For more information, call or email Alison Wang to be included on the weekly produce list.
Deliveries are twice weekly.
God’s Grace Garden
Founded in 2001 south-west of the city in Fangshan district by Zhang Zhimin, this farm is sustained by old-fashioned, yet reliable knowledge that has survived for years to grow crops. Zhang Zhimin herself knows a thing or two about being resilient – having survived leukemia, she now faces life (and growing the seeds of it) head-on.
Her knowledge of farming and crop rotation stems from the Qi Min Yao Xiu (the Principal Skills of Farmers), an old farming text written by Jia Sixie over 1,500 years ago. This knowledge is now put to good use on the self-sustaining farm, which was certified as organic by the Chinese government in 2008. With a mostly female staff, Zhang Zhimin not only grows crops with them but helps them understand the intricacies and the culture behind organic farming.
The farm offers a variety of products such as seasonal organic fruits and vegetables, orchard summer fruit, their own distinct handmade tofu, handmade vegetable dumplings, flour and grain. Animal products such as duck, chicken, and goose eggs are also available, similar to vensions like goose and lamb. Milk and honey are also favorite seasonal offerings.
God’s Grace Garden Jiang Village, Liangxiang, Fangshan district (137 0127 7398; www.youjinongzhuang.com). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Membership is free with a 1,000RMB deposit.
Minimum 100RMB with free delivery (less than 100RMB incurs a 10RMB delivery fee). Deliveries are once a week. Call or email for prices and details.
Green Cow Organic Farm
What started as a simple search for a Caesar salad at their nearby restaurant in 2003 has now grown into a full-time passion for Lejen Chen and Shan En in Shunyi. We are not biodynamic but we work on a closed system that is as organic as possible. We grow most of the feed for our animals and make our own compost using organic material from the farm,’ says Lejen. A member of the model farm project, the UK’s Soil Association has given them the certification for organic farming.
Each week, a box of not less than ten varieties of fresh produce is delivered with an abundance to feed a family of three. Green Cow has availability for 20 members of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where members pay an annual fee to the farm and are required to work in the fields at least three times per year.The farm itself is also environmentally friendly, with all building being made from recycled materials and uses compost toilets. Open year round to members but also to the public during the Green Cow harvest festival in October, they supply chickens, honey, fresh fruits and vegetables to the nearby restaurant, Mrs. Shanen’s.
Green Cow Organic Farm North of Donggezhuang Village (about ten minutes north of the New International Exhibition Center), Shunyi district.
Annual membership with a weekly box of vegetables for a family of three: 16,000RMB.
Mrs Shanen’s 5 Kaifajie, Xibaixinzhuang Village (three blocks north of the Exhibition Center), Shunyi district (8046 4301). Open Mon-Fri 7.30am-8pm; weekends 7.30am-8.30pm.
Little Donkey Farm
Beijing’s only government-supported CSA, the Little Donkey Farm is the brainchild of 28 year old Shi Yan, a young PHD candidate from Renmin University. Having returned from an internship abroad at a US CSA farm, she joined the farmers in Hebei province to provide training and demonstration of CSA techniques.
The farmhands themselves are split evenly between Hebei locals and university students, although they do accept interns. With 3 million RMB allocated as a generous starting budget, the farm has become quite the attraction, with interns staying for a season, and with this year only having 10 spaces for a turnout of 80 applicants.
Two types of memberships are available: delivery members that come in twice a week for delivery or come to the farm itself for pickup, and working members that are assigned a patch of land to maintain and grow, visiting them during the weekend while the farm maintains their plot during weekdays. These memberships are available for a 24-week season. The farms themselves are compartmentalized, with crops grown outdoors and greenhouses for seedlings. Pigs are carefully penned and chickens roam the plots, keeping the soil healthy.
Little Donkey Farm West of Houshajian Village, Sujiatuo Zhen, Haidian district (138 1095 6036/186 0102 2820; www.littledonkeyfarm.com).
Annual CSA memberships (24 weeks), delivered to your door once or twice weekly (2,000RMB/4,000RMB).
Direct pick-up on the farm available (1,440RMB/2,800RMB).
Other pick-up options also available, call for details.
Working CSA memberships: 1,200RMB for a 30 square metre plot (sold out this year; reserve for next year).