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In Langfangshi (廊坊市), a small farming village outside of Beijing, one farmer is particularly grateful for the spread of Thanksgiving in China.
Cheng Liyuan began raising turkeys on his land about six years ago, when he first learned about the Thanksgiving holiday tradition from an American acquaintance. At the time, Cheng was living in Yizhuang, and his acquaintance had asked for help finding and purchasing a turkey in Beijing.
“It was hard to track down where to buy a turkey in the first place, but then when I saw how much it cost, my stomach churned.”
Thinking his American friend would absolutely refuse to buy the turkey at such a cost, Cheng told him to give up.
“But he insisted. He shelled out the ¥3,500 to buy two toms. At that time, the meat was even more expensive than it is now.” Cheng shook his head in shock.
Cheng quickly realized the opportunity he had to bring Americans a bit of home comfort and make some gravy at the same time.
“You just would not believe the lengths Americans will go to for comfort foods. They’ll give up on certain American freedoms, but not food,” Cheng laughed.
Despite his birds clocking in at a hefty ¥900 – 600 each, Cheng saw an increase in interest this year, but not because of an increase in American expats.
“Strangely, Thanksgiving is starting to catch on with my compatriots like Halloween did before,” Cheng scratched his head. “I’m not complaining though, this season is all about being thankful!”
His sales this year weighed in at around ¥250,000 with most buyers from Beijing and Shanghai, but as far away as Xinning. Taobao greatly increased his market reach with the promise of the birds arriving frozen, wrapped in protective gear, and then packed in dry ice.
The humble farmer still drives a tuk tuk around his village and is undecided about what to do with the profits.
“I certainly don’t need to worry about affording my children’s school tuition!” Cheng grinned.
When asked about his farming methods, Cheng explained that the birds are raised “happy.”
“We let them run around free-range on the property in the summer and spring, and during the winter we have several large spa-like barns with floor heating and bubbling, warm water fountains.”
Cheng Liyuan not only raises turkey but also farms hard to find herbs, honey, and greenhouse avocados and limes. He welcomes any school in the area to come and see his sustainable farming methods after the Western holiday craziness ends.
“Christmas is still coming, and I’ve got more birds to sell!”