China trip an eye-opener for SDSU ag students

Editor’s note: A group of ag students from South Dakota State University recently took a study tour to China. This is their report.

BROOKINGS, S.D. – While the rest of the South Dakota State University student body was enjoying the first few days of summer, 34 ag students and three advisors were heading to China for a two-week agricultural study trip. Among this group of students were four students from the area: Aaron Bruns from Gibbon, Sara Compart from Nicollet, Pete Schwartz from Sleepy Eye, and Mindy Sommer from Fairfax.

During the two weeks in China, we saw various agricultural businesses and companies along with other main tourist attractions. The four cities we spent the most time in were Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Xi’an, and Beijing.

After a long flight, the group arrived in Hong Kong for a city tour and visited the Stanley Market. We also had our first taste of Chinese food.

The next day we traveled north into mainland China through Shenzhen, a city that grew from a small fishing village of 15,000 people to 15 million people within 40 years. From there we traveled a few hours further north to Ghangzhou. There we toured a fish farm and took an evening cruise on the Pearl River. The fish farm was not something we don’t see around here. They raised several kinds of fish including catfish, carp, sea bass, shrimp, and other native fish and ducks.

On our second day in Guangzhou, we visited the U.S. Consulate for an Agricultural Trade Office briefing. We learned a lot about the relationship between the U.S. and China in regard to importing and exporting agricultural commodities. We then went to the largest fish market in southeast China, which sells over 1,100,000 pounds and takes in $1.6 million U.S. dollars daily. This was another experience that many of us have never seen before as they had tanks of octopus, eels, squid, lobster, crab, shrimp, and many different kinds of fish. We also saw the largest fruit and vegetable market in southeast China. Annually, they turn over 11 billion lbs. and about $3.3 billion US dollars. They had boxes upon boxes of foreign and domestic fruit and vegetables.

From there we headed to Xi’an on a two-hour flight. When we arrived, we toured the city and saw a Buddhist temple and the old city wall, and we ended the night with a traditional dumpling dinner and dance show. The old city wall was 8.6 miles around with four main gates and was built to defend the people. At the dumpling dinner, we tasted 13 different dumplings ranging from pork to pickles. These dumplings were very interesting because they were shaped like animals, such as goldfish, pigs, ducks, and monkeys.

On our second day in Xi’an, we toured a feed mill, dairy farm, and beef cattle farm, and met with a swine production company at their office. The feed mill was similar to ours except on a smaller scale. The dairy farm and beef cattle farm did not seem as advanced as ours, but they are still developing. It was interesting to see the local breed of cattle.

The third day in Xi’an started off with a tour of a local family farm. The farms are very diverse and smaller than most of them here in the United States. The family we visited raised kiwi, peanuts, walnuts, cherries, wheat, corn, and grapes. We then visited the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum and the exhibit. There are over 8,000 warriors, and it took 700,000 people 40 years to build the tomb. They are still uncovering some of the warriors. After that, we went to a soybean processing plant which produced soybean meal and soybean oil with soybeans from the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. We ended the day with a visit to Yinquiao Dairy Group and saw their processing plant. This plant was one of the few dairy processing plants because China does not consume many dairy products.

Our final day in Xi’an began with a visit to a meat wholesale market. This was an open air market. Every part of the animal was used including the tongue, intestines, ears, heart, hocks, chicken feet, the whole head, the tail, etc. After that, we were ready to travel to our last city in China. We experienced a four hour high speed train ride all the way to Beijing. On the way, we traveled through some beautiful countryside and saw many wheat fields. Upon arriving in Beijing, we got to experience the traditional Peking Duck supper which was very good.

On our first full day in Beijing, we visited China’s Pioneer Seed headquarters and also had a briefing by the US Soybean Export Council. There we learned about soybean trading between the United States and China as well as the other countries China imports soybeans from.

The next day was started off by visiting Femur Head Hospital where they work with patients dealing with various bone and joint problems. A fellow SDSU student received treatment there for a rare bone disease and still continues to go annually to receive treatments. Following that we visited most of the students’ favorite site on the trip, the Great Wall. It was mind blowing to think of how they built that gigantic structure by hand. That night we visited and ate at China Ag University. We got to meet and have supper with the Chinese students that we shared emails with throughout the school semester.

The following morning we toured Tianjin Port where we saw the ships coming in and out. Later that day we visited with an Iowa native who has been working at one of the John Deere plants for the past two years. He showed us around their plant and discussed what John Deere’s plans and goals are in China. That night we got to shop at a silk market where we had fun bargaining at the various shops. Students bought various items that ranged from tailor made suits to electronics, sunglasses, watches, purses, clothes, and more.

On our last full day in China, we toured Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Our tour guide estimated that there were around 500,000 people there also touring the historical sites. That afternoon we got to walk around the Olympic Village and see where the swimming and track and field events took place. That night for supper we ate a Hot Pot meal. There you have a boiling pot in front of your plate, and you get to decide what food and spices you want in your pot.

It was a great experience to see China and how it has expanded and developed in recent years. Students learned a lot about the Chinese agriculture and how it differs from the US, as well as Chinese history and culture. It made us all appreciate what we have in the US as a completely developed country. With its huge population and desire to raise living standards and develop as much as the US, China will continue to play a big part in world news for a long time to come.

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