***For reading the most recent update about this Beautiful Reason Initiative (BRI), please scroll down to the Project Updates Log ***
Please Note: In this article, we use the term "natural farming" to refer to farming practices 100% free from pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Growing under these conditions meets all the criteria to be considered 'organic'; however, achieving organic certification and the right to use the term in labeling is a big challenge for small-scale, remote farmers, like our friends in Longsheng.
Viori is in the process of supporting the Longsheng Rice Farmers to become certified organic, but the process can take several years. Until it's complete, we'll use the terms "all-natural" or "natural farming" to refer to growing practices that are 100% free from any pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Beautiful Reason Initiative Project Report: Longsheng All-Natural Rice Program
Despite a long history of growing crops in completely natural ways, increasingly, more local farmers choose to use chemicals in their practices rather than traditional growing methods.
Viori is a strong advocate of sustainability. We strive to ensure that everything we source and sell is planet and people-friendly. And that includes the Longsheng Rice we source from the Red Yao tribe, which is already 100% chemical-free and follows natural-farming practices.
There are quite a few other local farmers who do use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. When asked about their growing practices, they are very pragmatic and honest.
Of course, they value natural growing methods but being competitive in the market means sacrificing sustainable farming practices to get unnaturally high yields and make a profit.
What's more, once non-organic growing practices are established, making a transition back to natural farming can be costly and often requires farmers to learn a whole set of new skills (skills their ancestors had..!)
And this is the dilemma faced by many farmers worldwide who would rather grow their crops naturally. After sitting down with the village farmers, the seriousness of the situation struck us deeply.
We are happy to do our small part to remove barriers for Longsheng local farmers and promote natural farming practices.
In real terms, here’s what Longsheng farmers need to farm naturally:
- Financial support and professional guidance to switch to natural farming.
- Access to markets/consumers who value natural farming practices.
After several rounds of local research where we dug deep into understanding the local realities and opportunities to contribute, we sat down and started dreaming...
The entire Longsheng region was able to switch to 100% all-natural farming methods for their Longsheng Rice?
This all-natural rice actually increases farming revenue due to the higher prices they can charge?
The “what if” question is one we often ask ourselves when thinking about our social mission work in Longsheng and is an important tool in the process of choosing our beautiful reason initiatives.
And we liked the answers we came up with. 😊
THE OPPORTUNITY (BRI)
BRI funds are ready to invest back into the local community-- and we wanted to start by helping more Longsheng farmers switch to natural growing practices by addressing the two needs identified above. To meet those needs, Viori is committed to:
Quality should be rewarded. Paying a premium for all-natural produce is more than worth it to us, and it also creates another incentive for farmers to make this transition.
- Sep: Harvest
- Oct: Project evaluation and next steps
May-September: Rice Cultivation Season
Last updated: Jan 24, 2022
Project Updates Log
November 2021: Production facility upgrade
Now that the rice is being dried in the dry and crisp fall weather, we've got time on our hands to upgrade the production facility for the rice. A big part of this years' rice BRI funds went to upgrading the local co-op rice production facility as to protect the rice and make sure its can be shipped according to all the required regulations. This upgrade isn't only a guarentee for the quality of Viori's raw materials, it also helps local rice producers sell higher quality rice to their local sales channels.
September 2021: HARVEST！
Harvest is complete! Working 2 long days in the hot sun has resulted in the harvest of almost 2000kg of all natural Longsheng rice. The 10 families we have partnered with are proud of what they've accomplished and so are we! Next up is drying the grain for several days in the sun before storing and production starts.
August 2021: Sunshine and growth
With the hot summer days in Longsheng we are entering the final stages of rice growing season. The grain is absorbing all the sunshine it can get, which also means water management is crucial during this phase. Longsheng's rain season during the spring provides the mountains with plenty of water, which is crucial for these dryer month, however water management is equally important. Next month is harvest time so stay tuned!
June 2021:Viori's rice is growing, and its growing good!
This is the most beautiful time to visit Longsheng with the scenery filled with green rice terraces.
For the rice farmers this period mostly consists of weed- and water management and leave the rest to mother nature. As our rice doesn't consist of any chemicals this phase might require extra work and certain skills, compared to farmers which relay on such chemicals. Our natural farming experts are luckily on the ground to assist the farmers where needed.
Stay turned for the final phase which will be harvesting the rice!
May 5, 2021: Plant-Based Fertilizer Delivered!
Today is an important day! Natural, plant-based fertilizer has been delivered.
Due to financial pressures, the number one concern farmers have is ensuring maximum crop yields. But as we all know, chemical fertilizers are terrible for people and the planet.
And while some natural farming advocates don't use ANY type of fertilizer (even the organic type), this would be too big a transition for the Longsheng farmers. So, instead, they’re using plant-based fertilizer, which, interestingly, had been used for centuries by their ancestors.
As villagers aren't able to produce these plant-based fertilizers on their own (yet!), Viori arranged for a shipment to be brought in from the neighboring villages
By guaranteeing the purchase of Longsheng All-Natural Rice at a 100% markup, we are hoping to encourage more farmers to adopt a “quality over quantity” mentality.
The preservation of the Longsheng mountains is happening!
May 2, 2021: BRI Natural Rice Project Kickoff
The BRI All-Natural Rice Project is now underway, so we visited to learn how things were going and see where the rice farmers needed support.
Our natural farming expert sat down with the growers to share ideas and answer questions. It was a productive meeting.
Together with the rice farmers, our natural farming expert created a detailed guidebook for the project customized to the natural environment, climate, and culture of the Longsheng area. We are working on getting this translated into English, so stay updated to learn more about natural farming processes!
And apparently, word spread in the village about this initiative-- which resulted in more farmers interested in joining this project! This means more rice terraces protected from chemicals and healthier all-natural Longsheng Rice for consumers.
March 1, 2021: Planning Has Begun!
We drank tea, talked about the future, and came up with a plan to support the Longsheng Farmers to grow more sustainable, all-natural Longsheng Rice.
After several weeks of planning and several meetings with family heads, we defined the project and set a plan in motion!
Viori will guarantee the purchase of all-natural Longsheng Rice and is happy to pay a 100% markup to support this project.
Note: this is much more rice than we need for our products, but that's the point! We want to encourage more farmers to adopt natural farming practices and support them in finding new sales channels.
This type of support (encouraging villagers to start their own sustainable businesses) aligns with our philosophy of "teaching a man to fish." Read more about our approach towards choosing our Beautiful Reason Initiatives here.
After going over the project details together and Viori making the first down payment, the Longsheng Rice farmers were ready to roll up their sleeves! This special visit that strengthened our bond and our motivation to continue to grow our business and support the incredible Red Yao community.
February 17, 2021: First Time Back
This was our first trip back to Longsheng since the start of COVID and travel challenges/restrictions.
We stayed in touch with local families throughout the year, but not having our team be on the ground in Longsheng felt unnatural, especially while our company was rapidly evolving to adjust to the circumstances.
So, this trip meant a lot to us...
And it was amazing. We are so grateful to have reconnected with our Longsheng friends in person and reaffirm our commitment to supporting their culture. We're also grateful for the stories and the laughs. We always have a great time on our visits.
This was such a unique trip that we wrote a separate article about it called 'Coming Home.' Read it here.
While listening to the stories shared by community members and restating our commitment to their sustainable development, we came up with some exciting ideas for supporting the Rice Farmers of Longsheng. Stay tuned for more!