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Where to grow your own, buy organic produce, feed the ducks and just play farmer for a day
By Wing Tan

CITY dwellers increasingly seek respite in the rural suburbs, some relaxing for a day or two in the country, some picking fresh produce and some growing their own on leased plots.

Farm tourism is getting popular with people who don't know much about nature and "Happy Farmer" programs are offered to city folk who can stay with a suburban farm family.

Here are some farms in the far-flung suburbs where people can lease a plot of land for farming, pay a farmer to tend it and visit on weekends. They can also enjoy other aspects of country life. These farms offer produce that is organic, or as close as possible.

Dreamy Farm

Founded in 2009 by two young professionals in the banking and IT industries, the family-style farm is a combo of eco-green planting and farm tourism that covers 3.3 hectares.

The farm, which offers memberships, cooperates with the Agriculture and Bio-tech College of Zhejiang University. All farming is done in fields, not greenhouses. All fertilizer comes from farm animal manure and compost pits. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used, according to the farm.

Members pay an annual fee and get a small plot of land, at least 30 square meters, as well as organic fertilizer, water, seeds and implements. They can track growth of their crops on a website. Families are welcome to visit and both parents and children can learn some basics of agriculture.

Members are encouraged to take care of their lands on a regular basis and take part in planting and harvesting seasonal fruits and vegetables. They can also pay to have their land tended.

Members get home delivery service and can order twice a week - if they put in more than eight hours over 50 weeks.

Address: No. 128, Xinjian Village, Xinhe Town, Chongming Island

Tel: 189-1796-0513 for Chinese and 137-8893-3529 for English-speakers

Website: www.dreamyfarm.com

Mahota Farm

Covering 43 hectares, this scenic farm has thatched cottages, ponds, forest and green fields. It offers both membership and tourism.

Of the total land, 28 hectares are for agriculture and horticulture; 8 hectares are for recycling and recovering usable waste, generating methane gas for power. It contains lagoons, wetlands and a wildlife sanctuary.

The farm offers a wide range of fruits, vegetables and aquatic products. It has goats, a pig breeding farm, poultry farm, greenhouses, a vegetable packing house as well as outdoor barbecue area and ponds for fishing.

Visitors can plant seedlings, harvest ripe produce, feed ducks and geese, go fishing and generally enjoy farm life.

Fresh, home-cooked meals are offered. A range of fruit, vegetables, eggs and pork can be home delivered.

To further deliver safe farm produce directly to the consumers, The Mahota, a concept store which brings farm to the city, opened on Kaixuan Road recently. People could buy the whole range of fresh, natural and nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and poultry produced in Chongming Island.

The farm is considered an agricultural education area; it collaborates with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in national, non-profit research.

Admission is 280 yuan (US$44) per person, 140 yuan for children shorter than 1.3 meters. A Mahota gift pack is included.

Address: Beiqiyao Modern Agricultural Park, Chongming Island

Tel: 6186-9650 (farm tour booking)

Website: www.mahotafarm.com

Tony's Farm

The producer of organic fruit and vegetables has two farms in Shanghai. One is in Datuan Town, Pudong, covering 117 hectares. The other covers 108 hectares on Chongming Island and is under construction.

It offers a range of organic produce, including lettuce, greens, pumpkins, onions and eggplant.

Organic produce can be ordered on the farm's website. Every season licensed nutritionists post organic menus and recipes.

There's a lot of open land where children and adults can plant whatever they want and get on-site guidance from experts.

Address: 7007 Chuannanfeng Rd, Datuan Town, Pudong New Area

Tel: 3127-2121

Reservations required a day in advance.

YMT Organic E-Farm

People can rent land on the 67-hectare farm and grow whatever they like. In their absence, farmers tend their plots; renters can monitor the growth of their crops online.

Visitors can farm their land or just relax with families. Children can learn about agriculture and nature.

Membership is required for farming a plot, but anyone can buy produce online. The farm sells a wide range of agricultural produce online, ranging from peanuts to pumpkins. It includes all kinds of greens, vegetables, rice and eggs.

It will be expanded by 133 hectares, which is under construction.

Office address: 6/F, Bldg 3, 168 Jixin Rd, Minhang District

Tel: 6197-1000

Website: www.1mutian.com

Sunqiao Organic Farm

The small farm of 1.3 hectares was an official provider of organic fruits and vegetables to the World Expo Shanghai in 2010. It contains 66 modern greenhouses and 344 other buildings.

It is not yet open to tourists, but visits can log on to the website to order home delivery of a wide range of produce, including organic chili, three-colored amaranth, pears, tomatoes, pigeon eggs, beans, rice, chicken and oils. It offers wholesale purchase for restaurants. Online consultants answer questions.

Tel: 400-015-5517

Website: www.517cai.cn

Customer Service: (86-21) 52920164