Posted on December 12, 2013 at 9:38 AM by Iowa Corn
Our I-LEAD travels took us outside of Beijing’s city limits today, allowing us the opportunity to observe China’s vast country side. Many observations were made by classmates about their agricultural practices and way of life. Before heading to the Hebei province for the evening, we visited one of the world's 7 wonders and China's most recognizable monument, the Great Wall of China.
|The Great Wall.|
The Great Wall of China was built in the 7th century BC with the purpose of protecting the Chinese Empire from Mongol tribes outside of China. It spans an incredible 5,000 miles from east to west with more than 7,000 lookout towers. At this length, it crosses through 150 countries in ten provinces.
Our visit found us at the Beijing Mutanyu portion of the wall. Everyone enjoyed a brisk ride up to the wall via a cable car. We walked about the lookout tower, snapping pictures of everyone’s first visit to the wall. Without a doubt, this was a once in a lifetime experience for many of us that we certainly will not soon forget. Arguably, many member’s favorite part of our visit was the decent back to the bus. Tabagon was the transportation vehicle of choice. We wound down through the mountains on a steel, snake-shaped track, on what they referred to as “non-irrigated farmland sled.” This experience wrapped up with shopping in the village at the foot of the mountain.
|The alpine slide adventure.|
With a five hour bus ride to our evening destination , we had plenty of time to observe and speculate about agricultural practices in China. Many differences were noticed and discussed among the group. Corn production in China is very labor intensive with little yield to show for their work. Families own only a portion of the large fields seen in, what appear to be, very large fields. They can own more than one section of land, but those claims can not be next to each other. In theory, this prevents one farmer from holding all of the good land from others.
Modern agriculture is not a term used to describe their farms at this current time. Corn is dried and stored in open wire “grain bins” on the top of their houses. Many sheep herds were still tended to by a shepard because of their free-range operations. Life styles of farmers and the folk who live in the country appeared to be much different than that of the people living in the large cities. Their houses are often times run down and look to be unlivable in our eyes. As we drove along, we all noticed peculiar mounds of dirt disrupting their farm ground. We finally came to the conclusion, after seeing those decorated with balloons and tombstones, that they bury their loved ones on their own ground. A cemetery was never seen on our bus ride. As U.S. farmers, agri-business professionals, and government officials, our eyes were opened to the difference in international ag production and the prosperity modern agricultural practices could bring to the Chinese farmers.
Upon arrival in Shiziazhuang, we checked into the beautiful Zhong Mao Hai Yue Hotel and quickly changed into our best dress in anticipation of our 30th year Hebei-Iow Sister State Alliance banquet with the Hebei Province officials. A bus ride across the city brought us to the magnificent Hebei China World Hotel where we were eagerly greeted by the hotel staff and escorted to meet Vice Governor, Ms. Qin Boyong, and other Hebei Government officials. Adam Gregg, advisor to Terry Branstad and fellow I-LEAD classmate, was our spokesperson for the evening. Kind words about our relationship with Hebei were exchanged between Ms. Boyong and Mr. Gregg.
|Hebei China World Hotel|
“As you know, this year marks the 30th Anniversary of Iowa’s sister state relationship with Hebei Province. This has been an important and mutually beneficial relationship, with cultured exchanges, educational experience, and trade partnerships,” Gregg said.
Gregg went on to say, “I will leave you with this: much like our delegation joining you here tonight, President Xi’s delegation in 1985 was a group of young leaders in agriculture. Like a seed of corn, that relationship grew and flourished, and we are now enjoying a bountiful harvest together. Like the group which met in 1985, perhaps the next generation of leaders of our state and our countries are in the room tonight. Like our state and countries, we look forward to building a lasting relationship with each of you here tonight.”
Gifts were then exchanged by Adam and the Vice Governor. After their warm welcome, we were invited to join Ms. Boyong and her delegation for dinner and a night of celebration. With this, the last event of the 30th Year Heibi-Iowa Sister State Alliance Celebration, we were treated to many celebratory toasts to the success of our states, conversations for improving our relationships, and a delicious 11 course traditional Chinese banquet meal. Fun was had by all and our eyes are forever opened to the importance of our relationship with the Hebei Province and China.
Carly Cummings is a program assistant at Iowa State University Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative. Cummings, who is also a current graduate student, grew up on a farm near Pleasantville. She is a past member of the Iowa Corn Collegiate Advisory Team.