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The back-to-your-roots small farming revolution that's keeping farmer's market tables brimming in the United States is gaining a toehold in China. Much like in the U.S., young people are off-ramping from higher-paying careers in finance and such in favor of long but satisfying days spent working in the dirt.

The draw, according to a story in The Washington Post, is largely health-related. In a country where melamine-laced milk and tainted baby formula have caused death and injury in recent years, some are looking to provide clean, healthy alternatives. Proponents of organic farming say they're hoping to make a dent in China's significant pollution problems.

But just like in the United States, success for small farmers is hard-won. Organic crops fall to insect infestation, and Chinese consumers are reluctant to buy the more expensive organic produce that looks lumpy and ugly next to the gleaming waxed displays in supermarkets. On top of all that, Chinese farmers don't even have the cache American ones do, since working the land there is seen not as noble or romantic, but simply as one of the worst jobs you could have.

Will this organic farming trend catch on in China for the long-term? It seems too early to tell, although it certainly has its devotees. One woman, who chucked city life to work rented land on Chongming Island, told the Post reporter she was wowed by how good homegrown food can taste.

This summer, she harvested their first tomato of the season. And she described the pleasure of biting into the red fruit and realizing for the first time what a real, unadulterated tomato tasted like.

"There's nothing like that," she said, "in the city."


Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.