As the world's population grows larger, keeping people both fed and healthy is becoming an even more urgent concern. In many places around the world, including China, food safety is a very real issue. Being aware of the problem is one thing—but how do we solve it?
Consider one solution: sustainable farming. Sustainable farming produces food and other products by using healthy, environmentally-friendly techniques. That means no toxic chemical pesticides or practices that degrade natural resources like soil or water.
Benku8 talked to a man who's been involved with sustainable farming for quite some time now. His name is Frank, and he's a social entrepreneur who is providing a source of hope for the world, starting here in China.
What's your background and how did you end up here—in the sustainable farming space?
I'm Fred Young, from Hunan. I was the first university graduate from my distant village community in the Western Hunan mountains. I came to Shanghai in 1996 and worked as an English teacher and then went into consulting for GSN and Knight Frank.
And then the crisis of 2008 hit—I was burned out and fed up with the jostle of city life and the lack of availability of good, quality food. I quit my job and returned to my home village to start the farming work I do today. Three years later, I started the Rainbow of Hope project.
Tell us about Rainbow of Hope. What do you guys do?
We are creating a cooperative of small plot farmers (farmers who only produce on a micro scale) and connecting them with the big cities. We hope to give them bargaining power, and an effective channel to sell their products.
We work with farmers who do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones to create a medium for rural farmers to connect with some of China's biggest cities, starting here in Shanghai. The idea sparked from frustration between me and my friends about the relatively scarce access to good quality food. We devised a strategy; connect one farming family to a designated number of families or businesses and enable them to foster a mutual relationship.
To test out our concept we connected six Shanghai families with a farming family in my home village.
We began receiving an overwhelmingly good response to our project, demand far outstripped supply so we had to temporarily halt operations and reassess Rainbow of Hope—we needed to be able to scale our service to help these farmers reach the broadest range of people possible.
We successfully reopened Rainbow of Hope in 2015. Since then we've been invited to share our experiences at TEDx Youth@WISS and very recently flew to Copenhagen to speak at the World Food Summit.
What's your ultimate goal? What is it you're looking to achieve?
My ultimate goal is to get an e-platform for Rainbow of Hope set up to enable farmers around China to connect with cities and to help these farmers implement and follow a high level of sustainable farming practices.
Broadly, we want to create more than just convenient connections. Qe want to create a community, a mutual understanding between farmers and city dwellers, that by helping each other they can be a part of the solution.
What's the solution?
I think it comes down to communication. If both sides [farmers and city dwellers] can communicate effectively and directly they can build relationships. An effective communication system will, as a result, help to ease city over crowding and the amount of people in poverty.
And well, sustainable farming takes care of the any food safety issues.
Thanks for your time Fred!
What's the biggest advantage of sustainable farming? It's that everyone benefits. Standards of living rise in rural areas, food quality reaches unprecedented levels, and the middle man that connects the two also turns a profit. Such is the wonder of social enterprise.
This is why Fred is not alone in his plight. There are many more sustainable farming entities sprouting throughout China. However, they won't take over and make a sustainable change if we don't help. The next time you're at the supermarket or produce market, take a moment to think about where your food is coming from and how it is produced.