Food sustains and inspires. It contributes to our health and well-being; it shapes our interaction with family and friends and it influences our daily lifestyle.
Food introduces us to new ideas. It changes with the seasons and opens doorways to experience new cultures. Many times, we choose our leisure activities around food. Consider your last trip away from home – either business or pleasure. Did you seek out a great restaurant, a new drink or dessert?
We are exploring the opportunities of food in a new resort located outside of Shanghai, China The concept is simple – the direct connection to food and farming has been marginalized in China; therefore we are creating a resort experience that reconnects the increasingly urbanized country to the benefits, experiences and trends associated with healthy, gourmet farming.
The purpose of this resort is rooted in the education of its visitors. Strategically, the sequence of destinations and associated experiences is carefully scripted depending on the profile of each visitor. Days are highly programmed with guided or self-guided tours, a variety of destinations and leisure activities that encourage social interaction.
It is with this in mind, I have included three stories describing how each type of visitor might experience the resort. Consider this a day – or week – of someone’s life visiting the farm.
The Wen family is a multi-generational family that left the house early in the morning. They have been driving for over two hours and have finally arrived for an exciting day on the property. It’s their first time to the agricultural resort and they can barely wait to explore all the activities that they recently learned about from their friends. The resort is one of the few places that appeals to younger children, parents and grandparents.
As they leave their sedan behind, they casually cross the canal bridge and arrive at the interpretive center. Their senses are stimulated by the colorful produce, smell of sweet basil and the sound of trotting horses from the nearby equestrian path. Their taste buds are enticed by sweet honey at the adjacent market and hands refreshed by the cooling water of a nearby spring.
After learning about the importance of the sun’s role in agriculture, the family hops on bicycles to take a leisurely ride to the children’s adventure garden. The kids explore and interact with the larger-than-life insect sculpture garden – learning the importance of a healthy and integrated ecosystem.
On the family’s return, they stop by the market to purchase fresh produce; recently dried herbs from the fields and a local bottle of wine for their upcoming anniversary celebration. They are already planning their return visit during the upcoming harvest festival.
In preparation for the annual corporate retreat, the marketing director knew it was important for the executive team to get their hands dirty. The idea came after a visit to the agricultural resort with her family. She saw a small group in the nearby vineyard pruning and tying the vines. She had learned that the team ate breakfast together before caring for the new Pinot grapes imported 2 years ago. The team raved about how they learned the importance of patience and discipline during their 3 day retreat.
The itinerary was full, but was also filled with activities that connected the team to each other and to the land. Each member of the team awoke with the rising sun glistening off the nearby mountain and a view of the citrus fields from their private patio. They had a fresh breakfast in the café before their first meeting in the event pavilion. The speaker was a celebrity chef, named Benjamin, who had recently opened his third farm-fresh restaurant. They were each inspired by his practical and honest approach to food.
After a full day of meetings, a tour of the winery and craft brewery and a visit to the Artisan Studio; they were ready for another adventure with Chef Benjamin. He would walk with the group through the adjacent fields to share his ideas for the dinner meal. They would learn about heritage tomatoes, fresh herbs and the new variety of lettuce that had been planted by a local group of students. The team was engaged in the menu and participated in the artistic preparation of the meal. They dined on the patio, underneath the lights and enjoyed a meal in the simplicity of the farm.
On the final day of the retreat, the team knew the importance of training and mentoring the next generation of leaders. They were corporately committed to sponsoring a group of nearby students who wanted to learn about the importance of food and business.
The class had prepared for their return to the farm for the last 2 weeks. During their corporately sponsored trip in the spring, they were provided with several plots of land that they were responsible for designing, planting and eventually harvesting.
Their initial semester was focused on the importance of water quality, soil nutrients and proper plant selection. The scientific side of the process was seamlessly combined with an agricultural business model. The mathematicians in the class were intrigued with the calculations involving planning and distribution to the local markets and on-site resort restaurants. They would soon be able to test their predictions against the actual yield and see how the chefs were incorporating their produce selections.
They arrived at food camp early in the evening. Part of the week-long activities included stories around the campfire, rooming with friends and a variety of team-building events within the Adventure Camp. Ropes courses, zip lines and obstacle courses were intermixed throughout the forested property. They could get to the classroom by boat, foot, bike, shuttle or horseback – all modes of transportation that were popular throughout the entire resort property.
Each day brought new experiences both in the classroom and in the fields. They participated in the harvest, distribution and marketing. They were particularly excited about the new addition of cooking and hospitality classes. Each student was expected to create their own menu, learn how to prepare the food and serve it to supporting patrons. Previous graduates had moved on to pursue dreams of being scientists and business professionals with a special emphasis in food.
Through all of these stories, food is the great unifier and this agricultural resort is the platform that contributes to the well-being of the current and future generations.