CHONGQING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Deng Xingyu, a 77-year-old farmer, toils year in and year out on his small patch of land, planting crops. So, he was surprised to discover that an increasing number of nearby city dwellers are coming to his sleepy village and are willing to pay for a hands-on experience of being a farmer.
Hailing from Yuliang Village, Shiye Township, Xiushan Tujia and Miao Autonomous County, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Deng now has his field divided into about 22 small plots. Each plot is leased for 1,280 yuan (about 190 U.S. dollars) per year to those visitors who yearn for an idyllic rural life experience, he said.
Since this June, the local government has jumped onto the lucrative trend and has set up a total of 160 "family farms." "The urbanites want to live in deep rusticity so such farms can be a good idea for both the city residents and local farmers," said Ai Dehua, head of the township.
Owing to the local topography, the villagers of Yuliang once endured scarce and scattered farmland. They could hardly make a living from farming alone, but the idea of leasing fields to tourists helps to maximize the development potential of the arable land.
"While the city dwellers can enjoy the farming cycle from planting to reaping for leisure, locals can find new ways to make money such as by leasing the land, helping as temporary farm workers and selling beverages to the visitors," Ai said.
In just about two months, 120 out of the total 160 family farms have been rented out. Deng garnered nearly 1,000 yuan during the period, a very impressive figure compared to a few hundred yuan he could earn from planting crops in the past.
Yang Xirui, a 32-year-old resident of Chongqing's Jiangjin District, is an enthusiastic participant in the family farm initiative. She rented a crop field to pursue a healthier lifestyle and she deems it a good opportunity for her 5-year-old son to learn about rural life. "Eating fresh vegetables helps ensure a healthier diet while trying our hands at farming can be a perfect opportunity which allows my son to learn about planting," Yang said.
In July, Yang's family came to Yuliang Village to enjoy the joy of harvest, picking up three sacks of vegetables including cucumbers and eggplants.
Last month, the local government also cleared a muddy area by the riverside near Yang's farm and set up tables and decorative lights for young city dwellers to enjoy the nightlife.
Amid the sweltering summer heat of recent days, cooler rural areas like Shiye Township with complete entertainment facilities and public services have gained popularity among urbanites. Shiye's family farm initiative and its supporting leisure facilities have generated nearly 200,000 yuan for the locals.
"This is just our first trial, but it serves as a good example for our future possible development models with regard to rural revitalization," Ai said, adding that without heavy investment or causing damage to the arable land, such an initiative can help multiply the value of a small piece of farmland by 50-fold.
"China has farming in its blood. Even if we are experiencing a high degree of urbanization, city dwellers cannot abandon the agrarian culture and way of life that date back thousands of years," said Pan Yu, professor at the College of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Southwest University.
"Hands-on farming experience also has multiple benefits. It helps to relieve work pressure, cultivates a sense of accomplishment and brings family members together," Pan added.