“We have 50 mu (about 3.33 hectares) of grapevines and 240 mu of kiwi fruit trees in our farm. All these fruit trees and our ducks on the farm have followed a circular agricultural development model that combines poultry, marsh gas, and fruit or vegetables,” a brown middle-aged Chinese man said in a sonorous voice to a group of visitors, introducing to them his special family farm.
After the brief introduction, these guests flocked to the central part of the farm, where grapevines and kiwi fruit trees with luxuriant foliage are flourishing in the high summer.
The middle-aged man is Zhang Yuanchao, operator of the eco-friendly family farm in Hongxing village, Longmen township, Lushan county, Ya’an, southwest China’s Sichuan province.
“I can both learn skills and make money here, and everybody is assured working here,” said Yang Guomin who works for the farm.
“My job here rid me of poverty,” said Li Song, who has worked on the farm for seven years and knows very well about Zhang’s story of the farm business.
Zhang was once a migrant worker trying to make a living in many Chinese cities including northeast China’s Shenyang and southwest China’s Chengdu before 2006. He had often struggled just to make ends meet at that time.
In 2007, Zhang learnt that raising ducks might be a good opportunity, as there’s less competition in the industry and the local government also provided ducklings and technical training.
However, after deciding to return to his hometown to set up his own duckery, Zhang found it difficult to have an appropriate site.
Zhang reported his problem to the government of Longmen township and the Communist Party of China (CPC) Longmen township committee, and got six mu of land for his new business through transfer of land contract and management rights with the help of local authorities.
Since Zhang was new to the business, the Party chief of Hongxing village introduced him to duck breeding specialists and helped establish a “development alliance” under which the specialists handle the technical part of the business, and Zhang takes charge of the management and duckery maintenance.
As the number of ducklings kept in the duckery grew, Zhang’s income increased too. He was soon referred to as “the guy who has earned more than 10,000 yuan ($1,428)” by his fellow villagers.
Unfortunately, an unforeseen catastrophe ruined Zhang’s business. Because of a violent earthquake that hit Lushan county on April 20, 2013, the duckery Zhang had spent painstaking efforts on for years was completely destroyed. The duck shed collapsed and all the ducks died in the disaster, making Zhang rather dispirited.
When he was ready to work outside his hometown as a migrant worker again to repay his debts, the local government came to help him start over.
Thanks to the help of local authorities, who helped Zhang rebuild the duckery, apply for loans and industrial support funds, and expand marketing channels, the duckery was brought back to life and started to make profit within two years.
However, as the number of ducks increases continuously, Zhang was faced with a new challenge – the disposal of the ducks’ droppings.
As Zhang was trying to figure out a solution to the problem, he heard that the local government was encouraging eligible people to develop crop farming through land transfer. So he contracted the land near his duckery, and started planting grapes and kiwi fruits, which, together with the duckery, later became his eco-friendly farm.
The experience-oriented farm combines sightseeing with sales and adopts a dual-model featuring both fruit cultivation and poultry breeding. It earned Zhang over 300,000 yuan in its first year, gaining Zhang a new nickname as “Millionaire Zhang.”
In 2015, Zhang joined the CPC and became a member of the Party committee of Hongxing village.
“Seeing the folks in my village were still suffering from poverty, I drafted a systematic plan to help them,” Zhang said, adding that his farm has provided more than 50 jobs for his fellow villagers while expanding its business.
“More than 30 impoverished villagers like me are working for the farm, making over 3,000 yuan each month,” Li told the media.