• Lifestyle
Urban Farm
Text by Yin Xing


Parents take their children to learn names of various vegetables.  CFP  An urban farmer carefully tends vegetables in her field.  by Lan Feng   The vegetables in the fields are usually some seasonable greens with short-term growth cycle such as pepper, water spinach, lettuce or green onion.  by Lan Feng  Scarecrows in the fields are meant to frighten birds away.  by Lan Feng


In a city sated with cement and steel, some still preserve a precious patch of soil which they sow, fertilize, and eventually reap. This is not some internet simulation - it can be found on Luban Road in downtown Shanghai. Recently, a 3,000-square-meter plot that served as a parking lot during the Shanghai World Expo was transformed into an “urban farm,” divided into 104 different patches, either 18 square meters or 9 square meters.

 The day the farm opened, throngs of eager urban farmers rushed towards the patches, including a 75-year-old woman who changed buses three times to get there,  parents taking their children to learn names of various vegetables, and surprising numbers of office workers wearing ties. “It’s interesting to have an area within a city where you can plant vegetables,” remarked Han Baotong, a designer by trade. “Each seedling I plant is like a seed of hope, and I begin the wait until harvest time. Yet the green already makes me feel pleasant.”

The farm was developed by 2030 Green Commune. Those interested in applying for a farm must register on the 2030 Green Commune website to receive a “title deed” necessary to become an urban farmer. Before the farm opened, 60 percent of available plots had been claimed. Many of them are tended by white collar-types like Han, who appreciate the respite from mind-numbing office pressure. The farm helps them relax and enjoy some of the world’s simpler pleasures.

“Becoming an urban farmer is totally free,” reveals Qin Yong, director of Urban Farm project. “All of the seedlings, fertilizer and tools are provided by us.” Considering that most urban farmers lack real agricultural experience, Urban Farm also employs professionals ready to teach. “Leave 20 centimeters between two seedlings,” instructs Ding Xiaotao of the Gardening Research Institute of Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “The plants should line up straight in a row. The root cannot be buried too deep or too shallow.”

Ding Hong, 56, lives near the farm and follows the instructions as she plants spinach in her own field. “It’s environmentally friendly and safe to eat these vegetables I plant myself,” she notes.

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