Farmer reaps rewards of modern approach
As the annual spring plowing season begins on the Hangjiahu (Hangzhou-Jiaxing-Huzhou) Plain near the East China coast, farm owner Xu Yujun, 51, works six to seven hours a day to prepare for the busy, upcoming farming season.
Xu runs a farm with more than 1,000 mu (about 67 hectares) of land in Haiyan, a major grain-producing county in Zhejiang province.
"When farming starts in late May, I will be busy from dawn to dusk, and sometimes I only get three to four hours of sleep," says Xu. Born in a village called Huaxing, the nostalgic Xu has bestowed the same name on his current farm. When Xu was a child, he used to help his parents on their own 7 mu of farmland.
After graduation from a junior middle school, Xu, like many kids his age, opted to work in the town and got a job in a dye factory. In 1999, Xu made a decision that would largely shape the development of his career over the coming decades. He returned to the countryside and took up farming again, this time with great ambition.
"The Hangjiahu Plain is perfect for growing grain," he says. "After doing calculations, I have found that agricultural production with large-scale farming can bring a higher income than that of a migrant worker."
Starting with a little more than 100 mu of farmland, Xu has seen the scale of the land he manages gradually expand over the years, an outcome that is partly thanks to Chinese policies facilitating the transfer of farmland management rights for modern agricultural production.
Xu's efficiency continued to rise, with work of transplanting rice being transferred from manual labor to machines and an increase in the use of farming equipment, an effort also supported by government policy initiatives.
In 2009, his farm was officially registered. The 1,000-mu farmland now boasts an average output of 600 kilograms of rice per mu, earning Xu a reputation as a leading rice grower in his county. The farm brought Xu and his wife an annual income of up to half a million yuan ($77,488).
As a professional farmer, Xu attributed his farm's high productivity not only to the well-selected rice seeds but more to his firm adherence to delicately balanced management－taking care of plants and land as he would his own child.
"Now I am used to growing grains, and also feel attached to the land," Xu says.
In recent years, Xu has experimented with different farming techniques, such as introducing integrated rice-crayfish farming, using drones to fertilize crops, sow seeds and feed crayfish, as well as piloting the recycling of straw in the fields.
China has lifted its population out of absolute poverty and is now promoting rural vitalization in an all-around way. It has pledged to continuously consolidate the position of agriculture as the foundation of the economy.
For China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion, agricultural development is crucial to securing the food supply. Xu is aware of his role in that cause.
"Engaging in large-scale agricultural production not only contributes to national food security," says Xu, "but also provides a source of income for farm owners like me, as well as villagers who transferred their land management rights to others, benefiting all of us."
Now, in Haiyan county, more than 10 farmers like Xu each have over 1,000 mu of farmland under their management.
For his next step, Xu plans to further expand the scale of his rice-crayfish farming, but what he wishes for the most is for more young people to take up farming as a career.
"Many used to avoid a career in farming, but my experience has convinced me that, given the importance attached to agriculture by the government, farming is a sector that promises a great future," says Xu.