A fruitful endeavor
Tang Jianqin checks the grapes at his farm in Majiadang village, Jiaxing, East China's Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Farsighted grape farmer uses family skills and modern technology to draw tourists to a once-sleepy East China village, Yang Feiyue reports in Jiaxing, Zhejiang.
Editor's note: China Daily profiles ordinary people doing incredible things in the cultural sphere as the country has advanced over the past decade.
Life is "berry" cool for Tang Jianqin right now. The 58-year-old grape farmer from Majiadang village in Jiaxing, East China's Zhejiang province, has had juicy sales since the beginning of the harvest season in June, and orders have been placed through October for the final picking.
"I introduce at least one new grape variety every year to keep up with the dynamic fruit market and its changing demands," says Tang, who has developed considerable business acumen over the years.
"The wholesale fruit hub in Jiaxing is among the biggest of its kind in the country and offers timely information on market trends," he adds.
Earlier this year, Tang introduced a new grape variety that is devoid of seeds and twice the size of its garden-variety counterparts. It also features a pleasant carmine luster, has firm flesh and is delightfully sweet.
In late August, this awesome variety won the gold prize at a competition hosted by the Jiaxing grape association to encourage local farmers to raise the quality of their produce and create some buzz to promote sales.
Tang's new grapes are already out of stock, sold at 60 yuan ($8.7) a kilogram, about six times that of ordinary varieties. He admits that he owes his incredible success to today's technologies. "WeChat groups have bridged the gap between planters and agricultural experts. One can share problems and find solutions in no time."
Tourists pick fruit, including grapes, at Tang's farm. [Photo provided to China Daily]
The farmer says he learned on the platform that the key to ensuring healthy growth of his new grape variety was the strict control of output. "Generally speaking, I have to keep this grape variety's production at half of that of its counterparts in the same area or else the quality will be compromised. In particular, the red color won't stay," Tang explains.
In recent years, experts have offered farming tips online and uploaded training videos to help the farmers of Majiadang. "They even visit us every year to demonstrate methods that can improve yield," Tang says.
A network of well-built roads in the village offers easy access to Jiulong Ecological Farm, which was founded by Tang in 2000, a year after the local authorities began allowing the transfer of rural land-use rights to develop agricultural parks.
Tang leased an area of 10.7 hectares and answered the government's call to explore ways for more profitable agriculture. "The land was undulated and scattered, and there were only mud tracks instead of roads in the neighborhood," he recalls.
Born to a family of farmers, hard work was in his genes. His family grew crops that were physically demanding. "Back then, every step-from transplanting rice seedlings to harvesting the rice-was done manually and mostly under the scorching sun," he says.
Not to be deterred by a challenge, he went on board with the local government's plan, and planted grapes and dates on the leased land.
New varieties of fruit and vegetable, such as grapes, cherry tomatoes and mulberries, are among the produce of Tang Jianqin's farm. [Photo provided to China Daily]