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Visiting China: The World’s Largest Food-Producing Country

Earlier this month, I traveled throughout the dynamic country of China to increase our supplies of certified organic vegetables, botanicals and Fair Trade teas.

China is a unique country:  one rich in ancient history with a diverse landscape – from the bustling cities packed with people and pollution to the breathtaking and pristine countryside speckled with the weathered farm faces. China truly is a place like no other.

The Chinese crops were in full gear and harvest was upon us so it was the perfect time to meet with farmers, build sustainable relationships and secure contracts.  Long-term agreements with our organic farmers provide security for their business and a safe, reliable and competitively priced supply for our customers.

An organic broccoli field outside Tai’an.

An organic broccoli field outside Tai’an.

What I find so unique about Chinese agriculture is how labor intensive it is.  While China is an extremely large country, the amount of land available for agriculture is actually quite limited.  Only 15% of China’s land is suitable for agriculture; most of it along the country’s east coast. Add to it, the pressures of rapid urban expansion and Chinese farmers are left with a challenge many farmers know too well, the need to produce more products on fewer acres.

So, farmers are often working small plots by hand to capitalize on every inch of arable land.  Of course, we at HQO believe that’s where organic agriculture can truly make a difference.  With such intense production on the same land year after year, the quality of the soil must be carefully monitored and maintained to ensure it’s productive for decades to come. Organic agricultural practices answer the call by preserving – and often improving – the quality of soil.

Here’s a great example of a field where the organic broccoli is carefully planted by hand.

Here’s a great example of a field where the organic broccoli is carefully planted by hand.

Planting broccoli.

Planting broccoli.

As with most organic farms, composting is a critical part of the sustainable agriculture equation. It not only returns vital nutrients to the soil, it helps maintain soil composition and aids in water retention and reduces runoff.

You can see composting is serious business in China. (Unfortunately the smell was somewhat serious too!)

You can see composting is serious business in China. (Unfortunately the smell was somewhat serious too!)

Conducting farm and manufacturing audits was another important part of my visit.

An example of how all of our organic farmers provide documented traceability with each bag of product we receive at HQO.

An example of how all of our organic farmers provide documented traceability with each bag of product we receive at HQO.

All of our farmers have a coded farm map outlining the various plots they operate.  This allows the farmer to keep track of his product from the origination of seeds and planting, growing and harvesting practices to the processing and shipping procedures. The attention to detail our farmers and quality assurance team provide ensures a safe product our customers trust.

While land might be limited, China’s food processing facilities are growing in numbers and improving in efficiencies every day.

During the latter part of my visit, I toured an organic garlic processing facility.  The pictures below explain how our organic garlic is processed.

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As you can see from the pictures, despite popular belief, the growers and processing facilities we work with in China are fully dedicated food safety and security. They also process under the standards we adhere to in the U.S.  We’re proud to partner with these Chinese companies and look forward to growing with them in the years to come.

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