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NDSU students study food systems in China

Updated May 30, 2012

May 29, Shanghai: Eric Miller
Hello everyone,
Tonight I am going to take a different approach at updating you, the family, friends, school administrators and other readers. I could sit here and write you an email explaining the different places we were able to see today; however, I am certain that when the group gets back to the states the stories will be told and the pictures will be shared. I want to explain to you on a deeper level about our experiences here in China and why this trip has, and will make a difference in our lives not only in the present but also in the future careers that we will hold.
Opportunity may be defined by Webster, but foreach and every one of us, it truly has a different meaning. I rememberstarting my college career at NDSU; on the very first week we were all given the opportunities to join clubs, Greek life, student government and many more. Personally, if Dr. David Newman would have come up to me at that time and told me that I would have the chance of a lifetime to take a trip to China, I would’ve looked at him and said that he was crazy. Now I guess I must be the crazy one as I sit here in Shanghai typing this.
Over the course of the first full week here I think it’s proper to say that we’ve become a family. Each and every one of us has stepped out of our comfort zones and opened up to the group. For some it was the food, others it was public speaking, and for most it was the language barriers. We all knew from the get go that there would be challenges like this that must be faced. Well, in true North Dakotan style, we’ve all taken the bull by the horns, from ordering food by pointing and developing a new diet for Chinese cuisine. I know that all of us will take something home from this experience.
I think it’s fair to say that we have taken this great opportunity to grow as students, agriculturalists and future career holders. Even though some of our parents and some of us weren’t very sure about what this trip had to offer, I believe that we are well on our way to accomplishing our goal. This trip has been more than just a vacation half way around the world; it’s been the networking opportunity of a lifetime. Meeting people like Chris from the Hauxia Dairy, the chairman of Besun (a pork production company) or Keith Schneller of the U.S. Agriculture Trade Office is what I and the rest of the group came here to do.
Those of you who spent time working to make this trip happen, donated money, or just supported the vision of this opportunity, I can testify that what you have done for us has and will pave new stones onto our path for the future. Taking this opportunity has educated us on the possibilities that lie ahead. Whether it’s becoming an extensionspecialist for the dairy industry, starting an exporting relationship or getting an internship position with the U.S. Trade Office, at the end of this trip we all will return home to our normal lives, normal routines and normal lifestyles. But, for some of us looking back on this experience, we will know the opportunities that are at our feet, and will have to decide whether or not to lay the brick work for our paths.
I don’t think anyone of us can explain how grateful we are for what we’ve been given as well as the appreciation we have for each and every one of you who made this possible. Knowing that each daybrings us closer to home and closer to normality for us is very comforting.However, each night just as the last when I turn in, I know that tomorrow Iwill be given another opportunity for my future, success, individual growth and education.

Updated May 29, 2012

May 26, Xi'an: Jim Magolski and Sun Xin (Rex)
Good Afternoon from Xi’an.
As Jody mentioned yesterday, we have reached the halfway point of our tour of Chinese agriculture and history. Much like the past week, today was yet again filled with awe and wonder and the realization that we as American’s have much to be thankful for.
Today’s focus was on agriculture production, specifically pork. We spent much of the day visiting operations of Besun, a vertically integrated swine production company based in Yangling, China. The company started as a feed mill in 1998, added its first sow barn in 2001, a packing plant in 2007 and currently processes about 400,000 pigs annually. While this only accounts for a single day’s slaughter in the United States, these are great achievements in China. Only about 5 percent of all hogs in China are produced on modern (to our standards) operations, with most others being raised in families’ backyards. Besun’s current production level is 26 pigs/sow/year, which is very comparable to well-managed U.S. facilities.
Speaking of the U.S., we felt at home with the conversations about Pipestone (a Minnesota company) who has played an integral part in helping Besun with facility designs, herd health, employee training and general management. Pork Improvement Company is also an important genetics partner. Companies such as Besun play an important role in assuring food safety and security while producing a wholesome and desirable product to the Chinese people, and growth of these companies will be essential to feed the growing population.
I think the most surprising thing to many of us today was the influence the Chinese government has in this facility. The government purchases the land and pays for most of the building costs of Besun’s production sites in order to encourage pork production within China. While we could not go into any of the barns due to biosecurity risk, we did drive up to three different sites (construction site in process for a 60,000 head wean-to-finish operation, an operating 60,000 head wean-to-finish site, and a 4,500 sow-production site). Between the two finisher sites, the company representative told us that over 60 million Yuan ($10 million) of government money has been invested into thesesites. It is great to see the importance the Chinese government has placed on food production, and their willingness to support it any way they can. WithChina’s population over 1.3 billion people, there is nothing more critical that a safe and available food supply.
One other interesting note about Besun’s wean-to-finish site is that 80 percent of their employees are students or current farmers that want to learn how to raise pigs. They spend a year in training at this facility (each trainee has responsibility for one finishing room—600 head) and following the one-year training, they go back to their own farm or start a new farm. This is a win-win for everyone in China as farmers are receiving hands-on training in production, and Besun receives their labor (government pays each trainee 90,000 Yuan/$15,000 uponcompletion of this program).
For lunch we were treated to a well-known local dish called Yang Rou Pao Mo (lamb bread soup). It is a combination of rice noodles, small cubes of bread, lamb or beef, and tofu in a broth. It is fair to say that we did not leave the table hungry.
While pictures will never do justice, it is fair to say that today we were submerged in Chinese agriculture. From the farmers markets blanketing the streets, toswaths of wheat and grass lying on the roads drying, to seeing thousands, if not tens of thousands of greenhouses, everywhere we looked was food production. Pork, beef and vegetable production are the heart of Xi’an and the Shannxi province. While there are eight million people living in Xi’an, four million of them live in the rural community working to produce food. Primary crops arecorn, wheat, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, kiwi and apples. Some machinery is available (limited due to cost and the abundance of labor); almost all of this work is done by hand. It didn’t take more than a mile of driving to lose count of the number of people working in the fields. Most of these people live on the farm. For example, many of the greenhouse workers live in small huts at theends of the greenhouse rows. These people are dedicated to their job—much like the farmers and ranchers who help feed the people of the United States. Much like the U.S. however, we must wonder how much their work is appreciated bythose that lose track of where their food comes from. Shall we never forget the importance of the farmer!
Our tour concluded in the afternoon with a stop at the local implement dealer. It’s fair to say there was a division on the bus between the red and green paint. In either case, as we look out upon the fields of North Dakota and beyond watching 200+ horsepower tractors and 24 row corn planters cover the fields, here welook to see two and four row planters, one bottom plow and tractors that mimic lawn equipment waiting to make it to the fields. It is absolutely amazing the contrast that exists between the cropping systems of the U.S. and rural China.
Whether family, friends, colleagues, administrators, commodity representatives or those of you who just have an interest in supporting NDSU and the future of agriculture, we want you to know this is a trip of a lifetime and most certainly a life-changing experience. Each trip reminds us of how grateful and thankful we should be to know there will be food on the table eachnight I get home. A person never knows how fortunate they are and how grateful they should be until a trip such as this.
Thanks again for your time, and we look forward to sharing more stories from China.

Updated May 25, 2012

NDSU’s Global Food Systems Study Abroad Program is on a 15-day trip to China where students are learning about global factors affecting the world's food supply, including production, processing, marketing and increased demand for agricultural goods. The program also includes stops at historical landmarks in Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hangzhou, including the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors.

NDSU students tell about their experiences in their own words.

May 23: Jordan Hieber and Laura Compart
Hello from China!
Jordan and Laura here to give you an update on what we did today, May 23. We started our day a bit earlier than what the past days have been due to the hour and 45 minute bus ride to see the Great Wall of China. Upon driving up to this historic world wonder, everyone in the bus was pretty well taken away! We went to the BadaLing portion, which is the highest point of the Great Wall. Imagine this: Almost vertical uphill climb, lots of people, stairs that were usually uneven, and at varying heights. Everyone got a pretty substantial v-neck sunburn, couple head burns and more farmers tans to come!
After the Great Wall we made our way over to a restaurant/visitors gift shop that made porcelain trinkets. We ate some fairly exceptional food and did some shopping.
We then went to the Beijing Olympic Park where the 2008 games were held. The Birds Nest and Water Cube were all within oursights.
We loaded the bus once more to go to a traditional tea shop. We were given samples of different kinds of tea and learned about some of the kinds that are considered good for you! The lady that showed us all of it was very good and we all had a good time.
This concluded our day and we look forward to the rest of our time in China!

May 22, Beijing: Katie Ramberg and Amy McConnell

Yesterday (Tuesday) we traveled to the Chinese Agriculture University. We were able to visit both the East and West campus of the university. We were welcomed at the East campus by Dr. Molly Chen of the Department of Economics and Management. We (students) introduced ourselves to the Chinese students by standing up and stating our name, where we were from and our major at NDSU.

Mr. Jeffrey Gu, Deputy Director of the CAU MBA Education Center, gave an introduction to the college and showed us a few facts about CAU including its history dating back to 1905 and that it is the oldest high agriculture education institution in China. Dr. Newman and Dr. Dahlen each spoke about NDSU and some differences in U.S. agriculture, as well as the differences in students’ backgrounds. In that room all students were asked if they come from a direct background in agriculture. One hundred percent of the NDSU group raised their hand to signify they had come from a farming background, and only two CAU students (out of 49) signified that they had any family history in agriculture, even to the grandparent level.

Next we heard from the Deputy Dean of the College of Economics and Management at CAU, Dr. Pei Guo. Dr. Guo gave a presentation about Chinese Agriculture and Policy, which was extremely interesting. After that we were allowed to interact with the other Chinese students and ask questions of each other about agriculture, culture and other topics that we wanted to visit about. We were able to learn a lot from the Chinese students.

After the presentation we were treated to lunch courtesy of Dr. Guo and CAU. We were served many appetizers including lamb, lotus root, chicken, spicy chicken, pork, broccoli, mushrooms, fish, dumplings and much more! Our main course was the famous Peking Duck. The duck was cut thin and in small pieces. Traditionally you take two pieces of duck in very thin wrap (like a small tortilla) and add small slices of cucumber and onion dipped in a thick soy sauce. Then you roll it (like a burrito) and enjoy!

We then left our new friends, which gave us Chinese names, and headed to the West campus of CAU, which is the Animal Sciences Department. At the west campus we were welcomed warmly by our hosts again. Dr. Newman and Dahlen presented again to the College of Animal Science and Technology. We again had many student interactions, including introductions of the entire group. We had a lot of common interests with these students and that was very interesting! We toured the campus labs and saw poultry, beef and dairy facilities. The housing of animals and facilities was very different from what we know in the United States. We were also given a tour of the CAU museum where our guides took us through the entire history of the college. We took some pictures with our newfound friends at CAU and departed for supper.

For dinner we went to Bian Yi Fong restaurant and again had many, many appetizers and a traditional Peking duck dinner. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we are going to see the Great Wall of China. We are enjoying our trip and learning a lot. Thank you for giving us the opportunity of a lifetime and we can’t wait to see all of you when we get home.

May 21, Beijing: Kara Scherbenske and Christine Wanner

It is currently 10 p.m. here on May 21. We started off the day with a complimentary breakfast from the hotel. After meeting up with our tour director, John, and city tour guide, Daniel, we were ready to hit the road. Our first stop was Tian'an men square. It's the largest city square in the world. Surrounding the Square was the National Museum of China, the Chinese Congress and the Forbidden City (emperor's palace). The Forbidden City was a mixture of history, and the intricate architecture, which I think everyone enjoyed. It's 168 aces of palaces, trees and courtyards. 

After that we went for lunch at a local restaurant. We split up into circular tables, and in the middle of the tale was a lazy susan lined with dishes containing traditional Chinese food. Quite the first-time experience for some of us.

Following lunch, we toured a pearl shop. This was an opportunity to gain knowledge and also a gift opportunity for some of the students. The emperor's Summer Palace was the next stop for the day. This place was 700+ acres. Many different courtyards, statues and palaces were seen again, and there was also a lake in the middle of it, which we boated across on our way back to the main gate.

Next we went on a rickshaw tour through an older, traditional part of town. The rickshaw ride was pretty cool. Compared to what we have seen so far, this part of town looked kind of run down, but it was normal for the Chinese. We toured a house that was 240 years old, and they told us that Michael Phelps toured the same house when he was over here for the Olympics. Apparently, if these people were to sell this house, it could bring millions of U.S. dollars.

Finally, we went back to the hotel, walked to the closest mall and had supper at our own discretion. Tomorrow we will be touring the Chinese Agriculture College, a little slower pace from all the walking we did today!

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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