China – Day two - January 8
As our day started off earlier in the morning on January 8, 2010 here in Beijing, we headed out to the Xinfadi Agricultural Products Wholesale Market to discover the bountiful fruit, vegetable, and meat supply for its people. This wholesale market was founded in 1988 and covers a whopping 150,000 square meters. The main products for sale include vegetables, fruit, meat, seeds, oil, aquatic products, seasonings, eggs, tea, etc. We first viewed the fruit and vegetable markets and were greeted by smiling faces, one who had visited with us the night before at our disco party at the Cattle Yard/Hot Pot dinner. We saw fruits that were known, such as kiwis, oranges, and apples and many that were unknown like dragon fruit and a HUGE pokey fruit that smelled wonderful on the inside. Next, we experienced the shocking view of the meat market. It was highly unsanitary and would never meet USDA and HACCP standards. There was pork carcasses being stored and sold in the back of a van and inside the building, the meat was being placed, cut and sold from wooden tables (NO REFRIGERATION!!!). The sight, as well as the smell was completely disturbing to our American eyes. But this is just a different perspective of Chinese Agriculture and how it is lacking in modernization and progressiveness. We can tell you how much more we appreciate the American cheeseburger now than ever before.
Moving from an unattractive picture of China, we got to experience the beautiful botanical gardens of China. The most amazing landscaping we have ever seen was displayed in multiple greenhouses. They were set up in various habitats and terrains. We got to climb through boulders in a jungle to view the scenery from above. There was also a magnificent display of cacti and desert like landscaping. After adventuring and admiring through the gorgeous gardens, we made a stop at the Chinese snack shack in the visitor’s rest area in the garden to devour some Chinese ice cream and American snacks. We gave them more business than they probably have had in a long time. As we exited the botanical gardens, a little mischief had taken place as a snowball fight broke out. We were only half way done with our day and we were getting a little hungry.
We headed to lunch for a ‘Lazy Susan’ style meal in a very fancy restaurant. We tasted some very delicious Chinese foods, including eggplant and ostrich egg, and some more traditional foods like beef and sweet and sour chicken. We all continued to practice our chopstick skills.
After lunch we headed to the Cangdafu Dairy Farm that milks 2, 200 dairy cattle. The dairy farm was large, and it was neat to see the workers in action as they herded and fed the cows, still with traditional bells. The dairy’s manager was very happy to show us the dairy and we saw every part of the farm, from the milking parlors to the corn storage barns. Many of us asked the dairy manager questions about their breeding and nutrition programs and it was a good opportunity to exchange ideas with each other. This farm even imports alfalfa hay from America! The dairy had some neat buildings and looked quite different from the barns of America. As we departed the dairy farm, the managers offered us complimentary yogurt.
Our next stop was a soybean operation that specializes in research and also makes tofu. The managers of this operation were extremely passionate about what they do and were very willing to share their business with us. The managers allowed us to sample many different dried fruit chips that they sell, including carrot, banana, and apple chips. We then got to tour the process of tofu-making from start to finish, and the managers explained the process of exporting their tofu product to Japan. The workers who make the tofu work in very sanitary, but cold conditions as they dry the ‘soy paper’ to make it into tofu. As we left the soybean operation, many of us bought the products that the operation sells.
Today was a great chance to learn the culture of China. Our tour guides taught us to sing a Chinese song, Jasmine Flower, on the bus. The Chinese are very gracious and hard-working people. Most are very aware of agriculture.
We had a day full of learning! Everyone’s excited to climb the Great Wall tomorrow and see the final sites in Beijing!