Hubei res­i­dents en­riched by key agri­cul­tural as­set

Fruits and veg­eta­bles grown in area bring new twist to tourism sec­tor

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By YANG YANG in Xiantao, Hubei yangyang1@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Xiantao, Hubei prov­ince, is lever­ag­ing its re­gion’s rich­ness in se­le­nium to pro­mote agri­cul­tural tourism, or agri­tourism.

Se­le­nium — Se, as it’s known in the pe­ri­odic ta­ble of chem­i­cal el­e­ments — is one of 14 essen­tial trace el­e­ments needed for hu­man health.

Yang Peizhong, a fruit farmer in Xiantao’s Chen­chang county, has ben­e­fited from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy that en­cour­ages new types of op­er­a­tors in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor and the de­vel­op­ment of the Se-en­riched in­dus­try.

“Thanks to the pol­icy, I had the op­por­tu­nity to reg­is­ter Xinyi Fam­ily Farm in Septem­ber 2014 and went into agri­tourism,” he said. “Be­cause the fruits and veg­eta­bles grow­ing in Xiantao are rich in se­le­nium, which is good for peo­ple’s health, the num­ber of vis­i­tors who come to our fam­ily farm has in­creased very fast.”

The farm used to sell all its stock to su­per­mar­kets, whole­salers or cus­tomers. Now, about one-third is picked by tourists.

The mar­ket price of grapes is about 10 yuan ($1.50) per 500 grams, but it can be as high as 20 yuan for the same amount on the farm.

Over­all, the farm has been prof­itable. But it’s about more than money — it’s also a mind­set, ac­cord­ing to Yang’s wife, Tian Xi­jiao.

“I used to be a mer­chant and couldn’t ac­cept be­ing a farmer at the be­gin­ning,” she said. But af­ter learn­ing about clean tech­nol­ogy, she found plant­ing green veg­eta­bles to be a lot of fun. “Now I con­sider it my ca­reer,” she added.

Ur­ban res­i­dents visit the fam­ily farm to en­joy the fresh air and green en­vi­ron­ment while pick­ing grapes.

Yang said he has en­joyed a lot of gov­ern­ment sup­port in getting loans, fer­til­izer and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy to build the agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture.

Xinyi is not the only fam­ily farm that ben­e­fits from Xiantao’s se­le­nium rich­ness. A Er Di, an­other or­ganic agri­cul­tural base that caters to tourists, also pro­motes lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Li Xian­mei, an em­ployee at the base, said her life has im­proved a lot af­ter pick­ing its Se-en­riched peaches.

“The work of pick­ing peaches here keeps me very busy, and I can make about 2,000 yuan a month,” she said. “Com­pared with plant­ing rice in the past, my life has changed a lot.”

Song Qix­uan, the owner of A Er Di, said it is im­por­tant to re­spect the rules of nature and use nat­u­ral cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods to plant fruits and veg­eta­bles, as it is not only im­por­tant for this gen­er­a­tion but also fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

“I plan to start an ac­tiv­ity called Small Hands in Big Hands to pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to ac­quire nat­u­ral sci­ence knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence agri­cul­tural life,” Song said.

To sat­isfy tourists’ di­verse needs, some farm­ers have trans­formed their houses into home­s­tays for vis­i­tors. Lo­cal res­i­dent Zhang Shao­hua used to sell baby prod­ucts in Guizhou prov­ince, but he was at­tracted back home by the emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties brought by Se-en­riched agri­cul­ture and tourism.

The rapid de­vel­op­ment of Se-en­riched agri­tourism in Xiantao is in line with a pro­gram that al­lows ur­ban res­i­dents to con­duct busi­ness in the city’s ru­ral ar­eas.

Entrepreneurs are el­i­gi­ble for stipends of up to 100,000 yuan for cer­tain types of busi­ness, such as farm-based en­ter­tain­ment and agri­tourism.

YANG YANG / CHINA DAILY

Yang Peizhong, owner of Xinyi Fam­ily Farm in Xiantao, Hubei prov­ince, picks grapes last month.

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