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Home Grown


  Test and photographs by Wei Yao

  In a small residential area near Beijing’s East Second RingRoad, an apartment with a flowery balcony consistently draws attention. Owners Wei Xumin and Ma Liang lust forspring sunlight to shine on the balcony, injecting their greenery with vitality.

  With greater importance attached to China’s food safety asof late, many Chinese people have begun planting vegetables at home by themselves. A few years ago, Wei Xumin, a Sichuannative, and her husband, Ma Liang, a Beijing native, opened ashop on Taobao, China’s largest e-commerce platform. Advocatin gurban farming, the couple sells seeds and seedlings forvegetables and fruits that are suitable to be planted on balconiesand roofs, as well as ornamental plants and secondary products.Their store has already earned a sterling reputation and impressivecustomer rating.

  Entrepreneurship requires a heavy investment of time and energy. Although the internet enables the couple to perform most of the work by sitting at a computer, they must stay connected all dayto help amateur clients with basic planting techniques and answer their questions. In 2012, with the advice and help of a loyal client,Wei and Ma spent a year writing Organic Vegetables on the Balcony,a handbook for growing food at home. The book hit shelvesthis January, and has been selling well.

  Wei and Ma enjoy their lifestyle. On a typical day, they complete all their online business, tend the flowers and greenery decorating their home, and watch a movie or stroll around a park. They seldom dine out because Wei loves to cook with their home-grownvegetables and fruits.

  Compared to their peers who are always shuttling between home and work, Wei and Ma lead a leisurely life. However, they continue working hard to achieve their dream: Rent a yard in the suburbs so they can plant even more and expand their business.

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