For many centuries, Chinese farmers have inherited land from their families and learned self-sufficiency. But as industrialization and urbanization reshape rural China, many have left their villages. Now, an increasing number of young migrant workers, university students, and even office workers have decided to go back to the farm. They call themselves "new farmers."
Once a week, veteran salesman Chen Li checks his 2,000 chickens - and their products. He calls himself the "CEO," not a chief executive officer but a "chicken eggs officer."
His 25-year-old partner Xu Jun runs the poultry farm and feeds the chickens daily. He calls himself the "COO," or the "chicken operating officer."
Chen and Xu, together with two other partners, met in an organic farming program a few years ago. But it was six months ago when Chen contracted a piece of land and invested in the chickens, Xu, who has a background in veterinary medicine, joined Chen.
They raise all the chickens organically, and sell the meat and eggs to about 100 regular customers and friends all over the country through social media platforms.
Life in the farm follows a strict routine. Xu Jun checks the chicken at dawn and feeds them twice a day. The rest of the day, he deals with online orders, packaging, and mailing.
Although Xu grew up in an agricultural village in southeastern China, his parents had to leave him to work in the city. He has always wanted his parents to return and believes his career will be very different from his parents.
A growing number of so-called 'new farmers' are breaking into China's agricultural scene. They are well-educated, good at using social media and Internet commerce. They are keen on innovating traditional farming and passionate in re-establishing rural communities. It's hard to estimate how many of them there are, but a report by e-commerce giant Alibaba says at least one million new farmers are reshaping China's agriculture.
Investing in a poultry business can be difficult due to high cost and slow returns. But Chen and Xu believe their new farming model will be gradually recognized by more consumers in the future.