'University men' take on the challenge of rural life
Yang Xuecheng graduated with an agriculture degree four years ago, but instead of pursuing a corporate career he and two friends became farmers in Yingde, a poor mountain city in Guangdong. Mr Yang tells Kevin Huang about the challenges they face.
What is your job like?
I grow out-of-season vegetables with two friends in Yingde. We run a 1.5 hectare farm, mainly growing melon crops. I am mainly responsible for the harvest and sale of products. I usually get up at about 6am and pack our vegetables, then deliver them to customers in vans. Sometimes I also work in the field, doing things like spreading insecticide and harvesting fruit. My partners are responsible for the crops and usually stay on the farm.
What have you achieved in the past four years?
We invested 50,000 yuan and one year experimenting to find out which crops were suitable for the region. We enlarged our farm to more than six hectares and planned to set up a corporation in 2003. But a big tornado swept through our farm in August that year and we nearly went into bankruptcy. Fortunately, our business has gradually come back on track.
What's the biggest difficulty you have faced?
It was lack of capital to rebuild our farm after the tornado. At one point we thought of giving up our plan because of money problems and doubts among our relatives. But we borrowed more money from relatives and the local government, and rescued our farm. We are still in debt.
Why did you choose to be a farmer?
It was not an impulsive act. While I was studying agricultural modernisation at the Guangdong Zhongkai University of Agriculture and Technology, I had planned to establish my corporate farm in a rural village. Three classmates were thinking the same thing, so we got together in 2001 after working in the city for a year. I just want to do what I love and I believe that vegetables grown out of season have a great market. I regret that a friend gave up and went back to the city last year, but we three will stick to our dream.
What do your parents and friends think?
My parents were strongly opposed at first, but they acquiesced to my plan after a year of persuasion. They are still worried about my future in a poor village and anxious that I am 28 and still single. Some friends thought that we were crazy to be farmers, but most of them admire us. Most of our former classmates have well-paid jobs in the city but I don't regret the choice I made.
What do you do in your spare time?
We have an old television and a karaoke set at home. I usually watch television, but sometimes I go to an internet bar in a town 8km away. The villagers often visit us when they have problems with their crops. They respect us and call us 'university men'. We are good friends. Chatting with the farmers is also a kind of recreation.
What are your future plans?
I still want to establish a farm production company. The dream will come true soon. We are expanding our business step by step.