Today was an exciting day for all of us. We traveled an hour on the bus from our hotel to visit the Green Cow Farm in Houshayu, Shunyi District and were given a talk by Shanen on environmental farming. He and his wife first started making bagels and selling them to the Chinese citizens and the foreigners in Beijing. While they were thinking of opening a bagel store, they also thought about the ingredients they have to use for their bagels. In Beijing, a lot of farming involves the use of chemicals, which can be very dangerous and unhealthy to eat. Shanen and his wife did not want to use such harmful ingredients so they decided to have their own farm in which they can grow their own organic and safe ingredients to use to make their bagels as well as other American-style food such as tortilla bread, pizzas, cupcakes and brownies.
After his talk, Shanen brought us outside to explore his farm. One of the activities he had us perform was planting two rows of black corn seeds in the field. As city kids, all of us were very enthusiastic about our jobs but we could not perform them very well. Most of the time we were just standing around looking confused; but in the end, we were able to successfully complete our jobs! We then went over to use the corn shredders, an amazing machine in which you insert an entire cob and turn the wheel and the corns will fly off everywhere from the cob. Everyone highly enjoyed using this machine as we were all laughing with surprise and amazement. Next, Shanen showed us traditional Chinese farming tools and samples of different types of crops. The highlight of my day came when we went to see Shanen's cows. He allowed us to milk his cow. Even though I come from a relatively rural area (meaning there are small farms within a five-minute drive), I have never milked a cow before. I was very excited to finally be able to have this experience. Milking the cow was a lot easier than what I had imagined, and the udders were dry and not wet as I thought they were going to be! We finished off the tour by visiting his chickens, pigs, chicks and looking at more of his crops.
After the tour, we had lunch at Shanen's restaurant, which features American style bagels, pizza and deserts. We had this amazing egg salad in a bread pouch (which I took an instagram worthy picture of), salad and four pizzas with different toppings: cheese, arugula, sausage and suckling. Everything was amazing and reminded me of America. My favorite dish was the egg salad. After our amazing lunch, we went the community center of Beijing Organic Farmers' Market to listen to a talk by Ms. Chang Tianle. Her presentation was heavily based on organic food. She and her organization host farmer markets in which organic farmers can bring their produce and sell them to consumers. The farmer markets started in 2010 and as of now they are held 3 to 4 times per week. These farmer markets are a great place for consumers to understand where their food comes from and why organic food produced by these farmers are better for their body. Like Shanen told us, a lot of produce in Beijing and the rest of China use a lot of chemicals that can be very harmful to the body. These organic farmers do not use these chemicals and thus their produce is safer to the body. However, organic produce is more expensive in comparison to conventional food. Chang Tianle and the farmers aim to take to the consumers about why the price range is so different and to explain to them that the price of these healthy organic foods is actually not that expensive in comparison to the organic foods sold in stores; plus they are also better quality.
I believe spreading awareness of the potential harm of chemically produced food is very important for the Chinese citizens to understand that what they eat affects their body drastically. As a Biochemistry major, I learned that the harmful things that the mother does while pregnant, such as eat contaminated foods, can affect not only her own child but also her child's child because the harm on the body is passed down through epigenetics. This is just one example of the long-lasting harmful effects on the human body because of contaminated foods. Thus what Chang Tianle and the organic farmers are doing are great for the health of the Chinese people.
The last event planned for today was visiting the new headquarters of China Central Television Station (CCTV) and listening to a presentation of Mr. Ji Xiaojun. Dutch architect Rem Koodhaa designed this new CCTV building. The construction began in 2004 and finished in 2007, just in time for the 2008 Olympic games. However, not everything has finished moving from the old building to the new building yet and thus we were unfortunately not allowed to visit the inside of the building. The building is an amazing design with two slanted towers from the floor that are connected at the top. A huge hole is created between the towers and under their connecting bridge. This building was given many funny nicknames because of its structure, like doughnuts, and its official nickname now is Big Squat. The workers in the building are satisfied with this nickname because it is at least very funny.
Finally, after Ji Xiaojun's talk, we are done for the day! Today was an amazing and busy day and as always, I look forward to finding out what tomorrow will entail!