Shen Zigen, a farmer in the township of Dawei in East China's Anhui province, had never expected himself to become the first Chinese farmer German Chancellor Merkel visited on her Chinese tour in November. A couple of years ago, he was known locally for poverty.
"My family was poor. Lying by the Chaohu Lake, our 5 mu (0.3 ha) field, all planted with rice, was flooded with water on rainy days. I had no choice but to go into town to find jobs," the 56-year-old Shen recalled.
In 2000, the government of Baohe district began to give the town a facelift. Gravel roads were tarred, stinking ditches dredged and flood banks erected. "The village cadres tried to persuade us to build vegetable greenhouses, offering a subsidy of 4,000 yuan ($625.2) for each one," Shen said.
So he built two celery greenhouses on his filed. As the rice-grower lacked experience in planting vegetable, his project turned out to be a failure. He then turned to agricultural experts for help. Eventually, he succeeded. He has nine greenhouses in total and earns 130,000 yuan by growing vegetable per year.
"Only organic fertilizers are used. No pesticides." Shen added he'd never worried about the sale. As his farm is easily accessible, agents and urbanites often drop in. Many local households open rural home inns, which attract visitors from downtown every weekend, said Shen Cuilan, a village cadre.