This week was October holiday in China so I headed to BioFarm to live and farm for the week. It was beautiful. The complete opposite of haywire. Everyone had dirt in their fingernails. You could walk in grass with your bare feet and even had time to scratch out a few blog posts, answer belated email, and read. BioFarm’s a 10 year old family-based organic farm located near the Shanghai Pudong International Airport that provides organically certified vegetables to apartments, restaurants, schools, and hotels in Shanghai. I first heard about the farm through an organization called GoodtoChina that initiates urban farming operations, farmers markets, sustainable design education, and farm to city delivery box programs in Shanghai. BioFarm regularly participates in GoodtoChina’s farmers markets and is the main farm utilizing the farm-to-city box delivery channels that GoodtoChina’s developed.
So the night before the official holiday began I got off work at 8:30pm and headed to the metro. Two hours later Xiao Lu welcomed me to BioLodge. You stay at BioLodge if you’re at BioFarm for work-trade, wwoofing, an internship, or to start a food-related business. Xiao Lu sleeps there and shows you how to make soybean milk, where to find the peanut butter, and how to use the wifi. She is Taiwanese, loves Biofarm and assigns farm tasks like weeding, harvesting basil, and snipping micro-greens during your time at the farm. There are these really fun metal bike carts you use to pedal plants and tools around to whichever covered row-house you’re working in. You get up somewhere between 5-7 am depending on the day’s schedule, farm for about 3 hours and then just chill midday until heading back to farm from about 3 or 3:30-5pm. The farm’s much larger than other ‘localish’ ones I’ve seen. They have about 20 farmers farming BioFarm. They’re mostly women who speak Chinese, live at or near the farm, laugh at and with you, are incredibly efficient at planting seedlings, and smile often.
Wwoofers and sometimes Xiao Lu make and eat most meals together (pesto pasta, basil/egg Thai dishes, lots of rice, a veggie-packed pizza, eggplants, eggs, peanuts, raisins, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, salads, and lots of instant coffee and oatmeal). Two musical French-Canadians just beginning their Asian travels were there too, and I really enjoyed getting to do life with them for the week. They were tasked with taking care of the goats and pigs every day. So glad I wasn’t involved with most of that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think there’s a better way to authentically and intentionally get to know others than getting your hands dirty growing food and living together. The minimum requirement is two weeks to stay at the farm, but Jane who manages it and does PR was nice enough to let me only come for one since I’d done stuff with GoodtoChina before.
It was such a good week! Came back to the city with a restored appreciation for creation and quiet.