Across China: A German's dream of organic farming in China

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-21 20:58:22|Editor: Li Xia
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NANJING, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The first Chinese farmers' harvest festival will fall on Sept. 23 this year, and Max Schaefer, a German who calls himself a "foreigner farmer," is quite excited about it.

Max is reaping the harvest of nearly 1.5 hectares of blueberries this year.

Though blueberries are hardly a fruit of the season as autumn approaches, Max is still busy coping with orders at a market in Baima Town, Lishui District of Nanjing City, east China's Jiangsu Province. Meanwhile, a bigger idea is hatching within the 34-year-old "foreigner farmer."

"We plan to set up an organic blueberry farm here," said Max, in fluent Chinese. He is preparing to work with local farmers and introduce organic farming techniques and ideas from his country.

One of the questions Max gets asked most often is: "Why would a German so eager to start an organic business in China?"

Max has a natural bond with nature since he was born on a farm in Germany. "I miss the old days when my father planted fruits and vegetables such as carrots, onions and blueberries on his organic farm," Max recalled.

Max first visited China in 2006 on a business trip, and the city of Nanjing thoroughly impressed him. A year later, he decided to seize the opportunity to work in Nanjing and ever since, his bond with China has continued to grow.

"I've lived here for 10 years," Max said. In his first year in Nanjing, he met, fell in love with and married a Chinese girl, and that was when he decided to settle down in China.

He has held several jobs over the years, but the dream of opening an organic farm in China never faded.

With little experience in organic farming, Max stepped up to the plate after he heard of the nearby Baima Town, which is known for its blueberry crops.

In May last year, Max started to plant organic blueberries over around 1.5 hectares with the help of Zhang Youcai, a top blueberry farmer in the town.

To ensure the quality of his fruit, Max refuses to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Instead, he chooses organic fertilizers such as rapeseed cakes and manure. Moreover, he insists on weeding by hand as opposed to using herbicides.

In the beginning, Zhang and Max had differing opinions on the weeding process. "Take weeding for example. The cost of hand weeding is over 37 times the cost of pesticides," said Zhang.

However, when it came to this year's harvest, Max's blueberries sold at 40 yuan per kilo, double the price of Zhang's blueberries. "I have to admit that the better the products, the higher the price," said Zhang.

During the summer, Max was always busy coping with orders from all over the country. He also sold other products online such as fruitcakes, blueberry jam and wine.

At the end of August, Max's father joined him in China to work on the farm. They have considered expanding the farm area and starting an organic blueberry cooperative in Baima.

"Max's cooperative will bring in cash for the locals, and we expect the introduction of advanced farming techniques from Germany," said Cheng Min, an official of Baima Town.

According to Max's plans, the scale to his blueberry farm will reach over 30 hectares.

"I believe there are bright prospects for organic farming in China," Max said.