|(File Photo/ Xinhuanet.com)|
More than 3,000 tons of strawberries in Jinshan District will soon be ready for picking. It represents a bumper harvest this winter.
Meanwhile, the Jinshan Strawberry Festival is already in full swing and continues until March 3. Visitors can pick, taste and buy fresh, juicy strawberries at the district's eight orchards. Prices range from 30 yuan (US$4.80) to 40 yuan per 500 grams.
Urban day trippers can tour the Jinshan Strawberry Research and Development Center, where they can get a lesson on strawberry growing by farmers and then go pick some berries.
The center has also prepared 5,000 mini strawberry pots for those who want to grow the fruit at home.
"We have treated the soil and seeds in advance and with regular daily watering, strawberry plants are very easy to handle at home," says Gu Baogen, the center's director.
The festival includes a variety of events including a photography contest, special decorations for Valentine's Day and lessons for children to grow strawberries at home.
Farmers started growing strawberries in the district more than 30 years ago and the total planting area has since expanded to 167 hectares. In recent years, the suburban district cooperated with a Taiwan agricultural committee and local farmers learned advanced growing techniques.
Organic fertilizers are used along with a combination of artificial and bee pollination.
"We try to reduce plant diseases and insects with ventilation and lowering the humidity in the sheds," Gu says. "Thus Jinshan strawberries are always in the best shape with almost no deformities even though they are not the biggest."
Initially farmers grew strawberries individually but with increasing cooperation with their counterparts from Taiwan, an entire strawberry industry has emerged in the district.
Zhang Yajun, director of the Jinshan Agricultural Committee, says they will expand to more sales channels this year, including online options.
At the same time, the Jinshan Strawberry Research and Development Center is accelerating development of Jinshan-grown seeds, meaning farmers will no longer need to import seeds from Zhejiang Province.
In May, a processing factory is going to be set up in Jinshan. The factory will produce strawberry jam, dried strawberries, strawberry wine and strawberry fillings for various cakes and pastries.
"The strawberry industry is not just about attracting tourists, more importantly, it will help our farmers increase their annual income," Zhang says.
Every 667 square meters of strawberries can generate about 20,000 yuan (US$3,218) in revenue, with farmers earning a 10,000 yuan profit.
This year, Jinshan will be hosting a series of seminars and forums on the industry. Agricultural experts from Taiwan and the Yangtze River Delta will be invited to attend.
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