Authors: Gigi and Maria
Today we went to visit a farm in Yangshuo. The farm belonged to a villager, but because of the overuse of fertilizer and pesticides, the farm can no longer produce proper crops. The owner gave the land to an organization, and they have been using it to investigate different methods of organic farming.
Upon arrival, we were split into two groups. The first group was tasked to plow the land to make it suitable for farming and testing, another group was sent into a classroom and given a lesson on organic farming.
Farming was challenging for most of us because it was our first time experiencing actual farming. We learnt to use different tools to plow the soil and also how to spread seeds, fertiliser and pesticide. The soil was hard and heavy to plow, making our process quite difficult and challenging. But as we got more familiar with the task and tools, we were able to work much faster in better quality. Mr. Knight and some of us removed tree roots from the ground. The tree roots were strong and deeply buried. But we didn’t give up just because it was hard. We tried using different tools, digging from different sides. At last, two groups dug out three tree roots in total.
In the lesson, we we were told that as the population grows, the more food is needed to keep people alive. Farmers saw the demand, and decided to commercialize it and tried to find the most cost-efficient way to produce a large amount of crops. The west invented a method of farming called ‘Monoculture’, which is planting the same type of crop in large amounts. This would mean farmers would only need the same tools, thus lowering the cost. It would make it easier to harvest too. However, one of the bad things about having the same crop in one big area is that pests could easily wipe out the entire area.
Another method farmers use to get better crops is through the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This is devastating to our environment because the chemicals can go beyond the farmland and affect the surrounding environment.
To prevent these problems, farmers can use organic methods such as ‘cover crops’, and ‘crop rotation’. Cover crops are basically crops that are grown, but not actually harvested Instead, farmers turn these back into the soil, providing the necessary nutrients for the crops to grow well. The ‘crop rotation’ method is planting different types of crops on the same land. Planting different crops allow the soil to have different micronutrients and micro-organisms, making the the crops much healthier and tastier.
This information was given to us in a short amount of time and we had to create a poster based on the information. The poster was scored on its aesthetics, and we were also marked on our presentation. The team with the most points would get to choose which activity they would be doing in the afternoon.
The activity was really fun, and we were able to learn a lot through it too. Even though it was a large amount of information, we were able to remember it and focus on it because of the competitive element.
We were given the following choices: stop motion video, making pesticides and finding lotus roots in mud. For the stop motion video, we needed to produce a video about sustainable farming to raise people’s awareness. For making pesticides, we used garlic, chili and onion mixing with water to create organic pesticides. This way, it will reduce the harm towards the environment. The crops will also end up being more healthy. For exploring lotus roots, we were asked to go into a mud pond to find the lotus roots buried in the mud. The mud reached knee level, restricting any movement. It was also very cold since we were soaked in mud.
All of us managed to contribute to the farm today in different ways. All the activities involved a lot of self-challenges and collaboration.
The Evening – Author: Chun Hei
After a long day working on the field, removing tree stumps, plowing the field, clearing out bushes, digging for Lotus roots and making natural fertilizers, we finally got a well deserved break.
First, we had a really nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant in West Street. The food was amazing and surprising, although there were many dishes we’d eaten before like sweet and sour pork (咕嚕肉) tofu with chillies (麻婆豆腐) etc. We were all glad that at the end of the day, we could enjoy a nice meal in a warm restaurant.
Alter the food we went for massages. The massage place was also in West Street – a five minute walk from the restaurant. The place was nice, simply decorated with a clean design scheme. The place offers both traditional Chinese cupping as well as a foot massage, but only four of us opted for the traditional cupping. The cupping was great and surprising, it wasn’t my first time cupping but for many it was their first chance to experience something different. When the cup was set in place, it was first warm to the skin and the whole experience was relaxing. For the rest that opted for cupping they said that it felt weird during the session and tingly after. As for the foot massage, it too was relaxing but the walk back to the hotel ruined the purpose of the message.
Overall, the night was relaxing and a really nice addition to the trip after a long day working in the field.