Farming is a Hard Habit to Break

The NY Times included a piece with a photo of a farmer on a road almost covered with corn cobs drying in the sun.

“But Dai Shumin has learned that it is not. Ms. Dai, 54, is the grande dame of Xia Xin Pu, a tiny village being squeezed by an expanding Beijing. Her parents farmed corn, rice and sweet potatoes in this same village, and she learned to plant crops and pick cotton. In 1986, after China had started its rush toward a market economy, her husband got a job in a library. His income bought a car, and the couple started a transportation company.

In turn, that income financed a pig farm that later brought enough money to buy the restaurant now run by her son. Her daughter now works in the city. Her husband still works in the library.

Outside the restaurant, Ms. Dai’s corn was drying in golden stacks beside the small road through her village. When she was a teenager, China faced starvation because of the failure of collectivization, and Ms. Dai said her village had survived by eating corn. Corn porridge, cornmeal. Now, she sells her corn to a nearby feed factory for pigs.

She no longer needs farming for income. Her house has new leather furniture, a computer and a wide-screen television. Her industriousness and ingenuity earned her a government award as a model worker.

But she still has a few dozen acres and cannot imagine not planting them. She hires migrant workers to do most of the work, though she helps on some days. “It’s not about money,” she said. “It’s more of a habit. I’ve been farming since I was young, and it just pains me to see the land so empty.”