The year is 2006, my name is Ashley, and I am a Chinese farmer who lives in the North China Plain with my husband and three children aged newborn, six, and eleven years old. We are located about ninety miles from Beijing in which we commute to by means of a fast train when needed. The North China Plain is known as “China’s Breadbasket” because it contains sixty-five percent of its farmland. My family and I have six acres of land for our farming income and livelihood.
Three acres are used for rice harvesting and the other three acres are used for the growth of vegetables for sale including cucumbers, peppers, and cabbage. Also owned on the farm are three pigs at the moment, as well as additional vegetables that are produced for the family’s personal consumption. This lowers the cost of having to buy groceries from the local market. Along with income, the farm is used as our personal food supply as well, with limit of course to only what is needed.
This year, our rice crop yielded over 2,000 kilos of grain, earning the family 2,800 Yuan at a rate of 140 Yuan per 100 kilos. However, the majority of this income was spent on pesticides, fertilizer, and paying for the much needed part-time workers who assisted the family with planting and harvesting the crops. Since so much of the income from the vegetables and rice go toward the expense of maintaining the farm, my family and I do live in poverty with very limited money to spend on shoes, clothing, and other necessities other than the food and utilities for survival.
Being that money is scarce and we can’t afford the electronics and other types of technology that most people in the world have for entertainment, for fun we attend live operas, musical shows, acrobatic arts shows, etc. These shows consist of entertainment through our own town people who perform musical events, dancing, magician acts, etc. in colorful costumes with music. Life on the farm begins early morning about five o’ clock am. It starts with a hearty breakfast before getting right to work out in the fields.
On a daily basis we eat a variety of foods cooked in many fashions. For our meat dishes, we sometimes, fry, bake, braise, steam, roast, or boil them and it contains any of the following: chicken, fish, pork, or beef. Of course we consume a lot of rice with our meals, some of which are stir fry dishes that contain meat, vegetables, and rice. In addition our Chinese culture has several different soups as well. We are creative with our meals based on the vegetables, meats, and rice that we produce ourselves.
Occasionally we will venture out to the local markets to purchase other types of food for a little more variety, when we have the extra money or additional goods of our own for trade. Local markets can be found all over the streets of China in every area and consist of items such as vegetables, meats, fish, sweets, and even everyday items such as silk, tea, jade, porcelain, household items, etc. Living in poverty as a Chinese farmer in the year 2006 isn’t an easy life. It’s the only life that I’ve known, therefore, the only life that my children have known.
Income isn’t always steady and part-time help on the farm isn’t always available. We can only do the best that we can. I have several fears and worries on a constant basis including not selling enough products to make income, or even break even in a year’s worth of hard work and dedication. I also fear that major storms and/or weather conditions at any time can ruin what we have worked so hard to maintain over the last several decades. Still each day, we wake up and it look at it as a new opportunity to bring in more money through our own growth and trade.