20 Most Interesting People: Shi Yan

We have a saying here at the Beijinger that even if nothing interesting could be written about 99 percent of Beijing's approximately 20 million people, there would still be 200,000 great stories remaining. To us, what makes a person interesting was not only their long-term presence in Beijing, but that they had done something of note within the last 12 months. Here is one of our picks, and you can always find more in our October issue, now out on the stands.

Shi Yan,
Co-founder, Little Donkey Farm/Co-founder, Shared Harvest Tongzhou

Why she’s interesting: Shi Yan is a pioneering force and active promoter behind the Chinese organic community-supported agriculture (CSA) movement. As a young graduate student at Renmin University, she was instrumental in founding Haidian District’s Little Donkey Farm on the CSA model, growing organic vegetables and renting plots of land to city folk interested in getting their hands dirty. Since then, 40-50 similar CSA farms have opened across the country. She has since moved on to establish Shared Harvest in Tongzhou. In a nation where food safety is an ever-present and genuine cause for concern, Shi has been inspiring a healthier and more sustainable way to feed ourselves.

What she says: “It’s our behavior that impacts what we get at the grocery store. If you always want convenient food, and you always depend on governments or corporations to tell you where to get it, then food safety scandals will continue to accumulate. So we encourage people to go to the source, see how it’s being produced. Then you will see the truth.”

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