Business as Usual Wasn’t Good Enough

“Business as usual” wasn’t producing better crops or stronger communities. So, Renbin changed the soil.

Renbin Shen, CEO of Jintian farm—a medium-sized family farm in China’s largest cotton-producing region—is a visionary. He embraces organic farming as not only good for the planet but an opportunity to improve his farmers’ lives.

When Rare met Renbin in 2017, he was already transitioning away from conventional cotton-growing and toward organic. He joined the Better Cotton Initiative in 2013 and rotates his crops every three years (a technique rarely practiced in the region, even by organic farmers). But deep down, Renbin knew that it wasn’t good enough to be ‘slightly better than’ business-as-usual.

As he likes to tell his 200 farmers who work and live on the over 3,000-acre farm, “Organic starts from the soil, not from the product.”

Intensive conventional cotton farming is one of the most environmentally destructive agricultural practices—harming the air, water, soil, and farmers’ health and safety. When Rare approached Renbin to discuss transitioning the farm to organic cotton, and replacing chemical fertilizer with compost made from the farm’s natural outputs, he was interested but uncertain.

 “We were skeptical about whether cotton could grow without chemicals. But we saw it as a growing market trend and wanted to try.”

Working with Rare, Renbin set aside 176 acres for organic production, and applied 300 tons of compost to improve the farm’s soil.

Changing the Soil

The results were promising. The organic cotton had a higher quality than the conventional while producing a similar yield. Meanwhile, the soil is richer and healthier. Organic matter and carbon levels are up. Water usage is down.

Renbin’s skepticism has waned. “The results far exceeded our expectations. Based on these results, we are forming a plan to turn all our land into organic land in 10 years, starting with composting.”

By building an organic ethic among his farmers, for their benefit and that of the planet’s, Renbin is igniting change for people and nature—but he can’t do it alone. Will you help ignite change? Give now.

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