Microblogs Bring Profits to Remote Village
Watermelon farmer Ren Hongyu was never particularly impressed by microblogging, and if it were good for anything, he certainly didn't see how it could benefit him.
But turns out, Ren was wrong, as microblogging drastically increased his sales.
Ren resides in the remote rural town of Canggou in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. Blessed with extremely fertile soil, this year the town's government decided to double the plantation area for watermelon to 8,000 mu (533 hectares), which made it the town's primary industry.
Betting on the town's soil and farmers was sound, yet a significant problem remained -- promoting and selling its watermelons, which are sold under the registered brand of "Canggou Watermelon."
Canggou's Party chief Zhang Hong said the town could not afford traditional advertising, but she believed farmers could microblog about their quality watermelons for free. She had read story after story that touted the rise of mircoblogs.
The number of mircobloggers reached 195 million in China during the first half of 2011, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
Celebrities, scholars, and many government institutions were using it, so why not farmers, Zhang thought. And while she acknowledged she was not sure it would work, she thought it a worthy gambit.
In April, Ren and another nine farmers began microblogging on Weibo.com, the most popular service in China.
Ren's microblog, "Canggou Watermelon farmer Ren Hongyu," serves as a very personal appeal to potential buyers.
"I'm blogging to share with you the bitterness and joy in producing watermelons. Please give me more of your attention," reads Ren's comment as an introduction to his microblog. He also provides photos that show him caring for his crops on a sunny day.
That initial entry was forwarded over 80 times and received over 40 comments.
Aware of the widespread concern over food safety in China, Ren and his fellow farmers emphasized the "green qualities" of their produce.
Ren said in his microblog that Canggou's government had issued measures to ensure these qualities, including prohibiting the use of persistent pesticides and other harmful materials.
And to the surprise of a still skeptical Ren, his watermelon mircoblog proved successful.
"After they read my microblog, people from Chongqing drove four hours to Canggou and bought over 1,000 kilograms of watermelon per person," Ren said. "Some dealers even asked me to sell them 30 tonnes, which far exceeded my output this year."
By September, the town had sold 8,000 mu of watermelons, and the average price was twice of last year's. Now on a normal misty day in this obscure town, no more watermelons remain in the fields, leaving only the vines of a productive season.
Ren earned over 200,000 yuan (31,200 U.S. dollars) from watermelons this year, nearly three times more than last year. Yet despite this success, Ren does not seem especially grateful to the microblog. He seldom logs on, now that this year's watermelons have been sold out.
But he does appreciate the followers of his mircroblog, and still gets excited when he gains a few more.
"I'm happy when I have new fans -- even farmers now have fans," Ren said.
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