Farmhouse restaurant shows new vision as lumber economy shifts
Liu Tongtao was surprised to find that his village could attract thousands of visitors annually, making his life better than during his days as a lumberjack.
He was busy preparing lunch for more than 30 visitors at his farm restaurant on July 11, a Tuesday, even before the busiest time on weekends from July to September.
“During peak periods, we have more than 200 customers at lunch, forcing us run back and forth from the kitchen to the dining house,” said the 38-year-old resident of Xishui, a small forest farm in Yichun, Heilongjiang province.
Last year, Liu’s family earned more than 100,000 yuan ($14,900) from the farmhouse restaurant, an amount unimaginable 20 years ago when the family struggled just to make a basic living, he said.
“I had to work outside jobs, like on construction sites, because there were no jobs for me in my hometown,” he said.
In the 1990s, Yichun faced a severe crisis: With dwindling forests and an economic recession after decades of excessive logging since the 1950s, many young people at the time, like Liu, had to leave to find work.
In addition, after the strict ban on logging for commercial use in 2013, there were too many workers, according to Mayor Han Ku. The city had to arrange new jobs for 74,000 workers, he said.
“It’s the city government’s responsibility to make sure every one of them has a job,” he added.
Liu’s father, Liu Yangshun, 64, has worked at the small forest farm for more than four decades — as a woodcutter for the first 20 years, and helping to preserve the forest for the last 20.
Another 29,000 workers have also shifted their roles from destruction to protection, according to city government data. In addition, 13,000 workers found new livelihoods in planting products such as mushrooms. Another 13,000 found jobs in Russia. Ninety-two percent of the laidoff workers have been able to find new positions, the city’s figures show.
“The shift not only gave us new jobs but new attitudes toward the environment,” said Liu Tongtao. “We can make money by not destroying it.”
Li Hui, a resident of Yichun, invited more than 30 friends to the forest park near Xishui and treated them to local cuisine at Liu’s farm restaurant.
“The green forest and the good environment are the best gift for my friends, and they’re very satisfied,” Li said. “And I’m satisfied with the rebirth of my hometown.”
in Yichun, Heilongjiang province, needed new jobs after a ban on commercial logging took effect in 2013.