On The Road – Vignettes from China & Mongolia

Sam Rye, our Community Connector, writes from the road…


As you may know, currently I’m roving in Europe and will be heading for North America in October, and I’m looking forward to meeting interesting local producers and distributors along the way, looking at hubs of local food, and running some workshops.


However, I’ve always been intrigued by the land between where I was born (England), and where I now live (New Zealand).  It’s a huge swathe of the world’s crust which I have, too often, flown over – so I figured it was time to see what was in between.  I decided to travel overland with my lovely wife, back to England, via China, Mongolia, Russia and Austria.


I wasn’t surprised by China’s seemingly decentralised food system – a network of small grocers and entrepreneurial producers and distributors.  It stems (I was reading in National Geographic) from the fact that the last 40 years saw drastic and radical changes after the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-61. Combined with a huge uptake of chemical fertilisers, reduced control by the ruling party and advancements in technology – China now has a food waste problem.


Here’s a couple of vignettes from my travels…


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From the Steppe of Mongolia


I may not’ve been so surprised by China’s food system – a complex web of producers and distributors in the many cities, but I sure was surprised when I got to Mongolia.


Apparently much of Mongolia (population 2.8 million) is not suitable for agriculture. It seems strange as you roll through the huge wide open grassland areas, where nomadic people still graze cattle, yaks, goats & sheep.  However there’s an extreme climate, long winter, and low rainfall. Apparently there’s only around 100 days of the growing season.


Much of Mongolia’s fresh food is imported from China, but I saw potatoes and wheat being grown on the Steppe, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers / capsicums being grown in hot houses.  It seems to be a country curiously poised with little to no food security, and a huge amount of land.  Perhaps some huge opportunities for sustainable urban agriculture in the capital – Ulaanbatar?


Here’s a few pictures from my travels in Mongolia…


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See you on the other side with some pictures from Russia & Austria, before blogging from the UK & France.



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