Editor’s Note: Nina Miller graduated from Turner Ashby High School in 2011 and took the year off to serve as Virginia Future Farmers of America vice president. This fall, she will attend Virginia Tech and double-major in agricultural sciences and psychology.
In January, I went to China as a part of the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers with the National FFA organization. The trip gives FFA officers the opportunity to explore international agriculture.
Before we left, I was advised to expect a huge culture shock because China was extremely different from the United States.
However, the more time we spent in China, the more I began to see the similarities instead of the differences—even though we did spend all of our time in and around three of the country’s largest cities: Beijing, Xian and Shanghai.
While in Beijing, we visited the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, a cattle farm, Xinfadi wholesale market, the Bunge soybean processing plant, the U.S. Embassy and the Great Wall of China.
Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in China and is best known for the civil dispute in 1989. The Forbidden City was the home of emperors, their families and top officials. Today, one-third of the “city” is open to tourists. At the Temple of Heaven, emperors prayed to the gods for a bountiful harvest. Now it is more of a park where people play games and sing and dance.
The cattle farm we visited was similar to an American feed lot. The biggest differences were the cattle were tied up with a halter when they ate, they were not fed growth hormones, and workers constantly shoveled the manure instead of letting it collect.
The wholesale meat and produce market, covering 38 acres, was a shock to us all. The produce side was very similar to that of the United States, but the meat side was eye-opening. There are no universal health codes or restrictions in China regarding proper storage and preservation of meat and a lot of the practices we saw would not pass the U.S . codes.
Bunge processes 4,800 metric tons of soybeans every day and is a major importer of U.S. soybeans.
At the embassy, we talked with the agricultural attaché about China’s culture, how that affects agriculture and policy issues between the U.S. and China. One idea we were asked to share back home was that we will need to work with China in order to feed the world in the future.
In Xian, the former capital, we saw the terracotta warriors, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, North West Agricultural and Forestry University and a cooperative dairy farm.
The life-sized terracotta warriors, made of a clay-like substance, were created by Emperor Qin Shi Huang to protect him in the afterlife. They were buried with the emperor upon his death and discovered in 1974 when farmers were drilling for a well. So far, more than 8,000 figurines have been discovered and there are believed to be more.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was very pretty and serene. There was a lot of gold work and we were able to see a few monks and learn about their religious practices.
The North West Agricultural and Forestry University was one of my favorite stops on the trip. There we met students our age and
I really saw that people in the world are no different from country to country—we only have to get past our language and cultural barriers.
The cooperative dairy farm was very different from the U.S. The cows weren’t taken care of as well and the corrals were very messy. The milking parlor, however, was very clean and looked identical to those here.
In Shanghai, we visited the Yu Garden. The Yu Garden was built by a prominent citizen between 1559 and 1577 to show respect for his parents. Now it is owned by the government and is a public park.
I am so thankful for this trip. I can better understand and accept different backgrounds and I met some awesome people from the United States and China.