Thoughts at a Farmers Market in Rural China

The local farmers market in Jiubujiang, Hunan, again this summer.

Again I can only show a few impressions; it would be just too silly to be standing, video camera in hand, in a place like this, babbling away.
I already seem to be the only foreigner who gets here all year, so I’m already quite the noticeable figure just walking around quietly.

Still, I always find it interesting to go there, there is always something to see and to think about…

Rural Chinese market, Hunan
Like, what do we have here? Green peppers, luffa (silk) gourd), soy beans, water melons,…

What chances does such a market offer the locals in it?

All the talk about China’s economic rise only makes this more interesting, I find.

Not so few of the (elder) locals there could hardly get by other than by growing food for themselves and selling their excess produce for money.

If you have ever grown quite a lot, let alone if you have a fruit tree in your garden, you probably know how suddenly there can be quite the excess produce.

Glass fish at rural farmers market, Hunan, China
The “glass fish” on offer here is not from right around the corner, probably. Its best-known source is the Taihu lake.

In this place, I haven’t yet seen that, but there are also students’ initiatives growing local specialties for sale on China’s biggest online marketplace, Taobao…

How come such a market (still) works in China, but is hard to find in a place like Austria (or many a US rural town), in spite of the environmental awareness and all that?

One must admit that there is quite the use of plastic on such a market, but most of the produce is truly locally produced.

Tofu on offer at rural Chinese market, Hunan
The tofu, in all the diversity in which it’s usually offered in China, probably does not come from afar

Here in Parndorf, we have an Earth Market, and while it’s good to have it, the vegetables on offer come from nearly 40 km away. Not quite walking distance.

(Also, many if not most of the visitors, even those living in the same town, come by car as a matter of course, not by bike or on foot)…

Whatever do they offer – and how much of it do you know?

This is the thought I always find particularly interesting.

It’s been a while since we went to China at another time than during the summer (when else should we find free time?) so seasonality does not come into play.

Over the course of a year, though, in China in general and in such local markets in particular, its effect would be quite noticeable; spring vegetables offer quite a bit from those of summer and falll, for example.

It’s worth thinking about our own supermarkets, where asparagus comes “into season” in February (from Peru), strawberries in December, etc.

Selection of vegetables at local market in Hunan, China
On first glance, looks like a usual assortment of vegetables. Maybe not on closer inspection, though ;)

And that didn’t even mention the real and simple question of what is known to the visitor from afar, like me, and what isn’t.

Markets and kitchens around the world have become much more similar in terms of ingredients than they used to be, but even so (and all the more noticeable because of it) there is still some diversity that makes for surprises.

And then sometimes, I bring some of these things into my own garden, too…

Fowl at local farmers market in rural Hunan, China
Baby chicken, ducklings,… nothing I have in my garden, though actually there are quite a few people around who do keep such lifestock

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