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Organic addicts

By Sun Shuangjie (Global Times)

09:49, August 31, 2012

Recent food safety scandals have presented major challenges to shoppers concerned about the provenance and quality of certain items. And while produce certified "organic" or "green" might seem a safer option, many consumers are turned off by their high prices. Thankfully, small-scale farmers' markets are helping to bridge this gap, with fresh, reasonably-priced produce easily accessible to Shanghai's urban population.

Most of the farmers who trade at these markets are former, or current, city dwellers themselves. They have rented small plots of land in the city's suburbs - usually between one and 10 hectares in size. They refuse to use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or anything else that would negatively impact on the quality of their produce. However, most of them have yet to apply for an official "organic" certificate due to the fact that the cost of the certification is between 20,000 yuan ($3,148) and 50,000 yuan.

The vegetable and other produce on sale at these farmers' markets are certainly cheaper than their certificated organic equivalents sold in supermarkets. And the personal touch is provided by farmers who are happy to share with customers their experience of farming. Many invite customers to visit their farms and will even deliver some free produce.

The Global Times has sought out a selection of farmers' markets around the city, all of which have established excellent reputations among the local communities they serve.

Nonghao Farmers' Market

Even though it was only launched in May 2011, Nonghao Farmers' Market is still one of the earliest markets of its kind in Shanghai. The market started in Liyuan Road in Huangpu district and then moved to Daxue Road in Yangpu district. Since then a second market has opened up in Gaoqing Road in Pudong New Area. And these two streets host the farmers' market once a month.

Yi Xiaowu, who jokingly refers to himself as an "IT migrant worker," is one of the organizers behind Nonghao Farmers' Market. As a concerned volunteer for Friends of Nature, an environmental protection NGO, Yi recognizes that modernized agriculture, which uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has wreaked disastrous consequences on the ecological environment. Therefore, he decided to cooperate with some small-scale farmers, many of whom are environmental protection volunteers themselves, to bring their products into new communities in order to promote this brand of environmentally friendly agriculture.

Each Nonghao Farmers' Market hosts roughly 10 vendors who trade in a variety of vegetables, such as tomatoes, green peppers, chives, water spinach and wax gourds. The average price of vegetables is roughly 20 yuan per kilogram.

Jia Ruiming, a former salesman but now a farmer on Chongming Island, is one of the best-known and most popular vendors. Jia's grains and self-made soy sauce are among the most sought-after items on his stall. Jia rented roughly 0.3 hectare of land in Chongming in 2008, and has since settled down there. Now his farm has expanded to more than 15 hectares.

Add: 200 Daxue Road

大学路200号

Vanke Golden Mileage, Lane 2861 Gaoqing Road

高青路2861弄万科金色里程会所大厅

Tel: 189-1616-9609

E-mail [email protected] for market dates and other details

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