Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 2 years 1 week ago

Phase 3 will include my research on my topic, both before and during my stay in Xizhou. In this phase, I will be doing research that would help me create my 10 big questions, which I will research on for my topic.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

As a result of the climate and the geography in China, the areas that is good for cultivation is small, only about 10 percent of the total land area. Out of the 10 percent, slightly more than half is irrigated, and the rest being roughly divided into half paddy fields and half irrigated fields. Progress has been made in regards to water quality, but soil varies around the country. Environmental problems such as flooding, drought, earthquake and erosion still pose threat in many areas. Nevertheless, about two-thirds of the population lives in the country, and a large portion of them makes their living from farming. Since 1980, many were encouraged to pursue other activities [1]. The method of growing differs greatly in different localities [3].

Rice, the most important crop in China, is mostly found on the southern side [1]. The cycle of rice is about 190 days with the harvesting season lasting about 30 days in mid-September to October. Pumps, valves and a series of drains bring in water; the water is originally from a local river or lake. The water level is extremely important, as it will affect the growth and later used to break down the straw. Many of the fields are on natural plains, when managed properly, can be used to grow good crops and help control the winter flooding [2]. Rice when still covered by the brown hull is known as paddy [3]. It takes 7 days to plant a field of rice, and it takes 2 weeks to harvest a field of rice [4].

Tools for harvesting rice - sickle, thresher (gasoline, manual, basket) [5]

The sickle is easy to use, you hold the middle of the stock, and then cut upwards using the sickle. After you collect a pile, you prepare it for the thresher. There are three kinds of thresher; a thresher is a machine that has blades. The first thresher is the gasoline thresher, using the blades to cut the rice off the bales. It runs on the gasoline, and is bought by farmers that could afford it. The second type is the manual; it functions similarly to the gasoline thresher, but relies on manpower to function. The farmers have to push down on a bar to keep it going [5].

Garlic is harvested with a pitched, two-prong fork. Farmer’s first pull up the garlic, then place it somewhere behind them. The roots and stem of the garlic that’s put behind gets cut then put into a bucket. After the field is empty of garlic, the farmers would then plow by hand again to check for any extra ones that they missed. Garlic is planted around wintertime, and is harvested on the third month of the lunar year (May 27th). Garlic usually sold during morning markets, and is very good for the economy. They sell garlic to cities like Kunming because they receive “good” money and can be sold on a daily basis [4].

Information From 3-to-5's:

Garlic grown here is mostly exported to Japan and Korea, it is seen as a cash crop. The field’s do not have a single owner, but is made up of different families. People only started growing garlic a few years ago because one family planted it and earned a lot of money, and because everyone wanted to earn money, they changed from growing for the community to growing garlic. Most families would want their child to stay here if there is a good job available [6].

Information From Local Contacts:

My first local contact was grandma Yen [7]. She is a friendly staff working at the Linden Centre. She had two children, both around 20 years old. She lived in Xizhou for all her life. Here is what I learned while interviewing her:

•   Both her children are out in large cities

•   She believes that if her children have to ability to go out, they should and pursue their dreams.

•   One of her daughters husband is a farmer

•   Health and happiness is above everything

•   One of the daughter is in Shuzhou and the other is studying in Kumming

•   As long as they visit, she is fine with them being gone

•   If they (her children) have to chance to go out, they should go and explore the world outside the village

So grandma Yen thinks that happiness and health is the most important thing, but if her children have the chance to, they should go out and explore the world. Just as long as they visit and have a happy time.

My second contact was Mr. Yang [8]. He is the guard of the Linden Centre, he is also very friendly, and he has children around the age of 30, and is in one of big cities around Xizhou. He is a person who lived here all his life. Here is what I learned while interviewing him.

•   He prefers his children to go out because they spent a long time here, and would rather them to explore outside.

•   His children visits around once a month

•   He thinks that he has no ability to have a say in his child's happiness, because she decides it.

•   People stopped growing beans because farming that costs too much and the beans are too cheap, long beans require a lot of care and labor is getting more expensive. Growing beans needs a lot of pesticides other wise it would be ruined. Growing garlic requires less labor and therefore they can hire one person to do the whole field. Garlic is seen as a Cash Crop.

•   Once the farms around here were growing wheat, but stopped because the wheat produced was too little, proving that long bean changing to garlic was not the first change.

•   Eryuan people started growing garlic a long time a go (since the previous generation)

•   Most of Yunnan gets their vegetables and fruits from two places, one being the Binchuan, and the other one being the Midu

•   Even thought importing food has a extra transportation fee, the prices does not rise due to having one big owner and distributing to smaller business owners

•   The fields to the back of Linden Centre started growing garlic 5 or 6 years ago

•   The other parts of the field only started a few years ago

•   Farming depends a lot on the weather, for example, when seeds are first planted; it needs dry and soft soil. If there was too much rain, the plants would not grow very well

•   The bean production is dropping

•   People used to create their own fertilizer, by using the droppings of the animals that they have, such as the pigs and cows and chickens. People used to pile everything up except the glass and the plastic into a pile, which then decomposes and changes into fertilizers. Now nobody has their own animals and all the waste are being transported away, so people are forced to use chemical fertilizers. Which is harmer to our body

•   In the dryer parts of Xizhou, people grow corn instead of rice

•   It used to be that the farms around the Erhai were growing vegetable, but due to not a stable income, people changed to growing garlic

My third contact was Ms. Li [9]. She is the Owner of the Popsicle stand and she is a really nice lady, she has a girl and a boy. She is a local person, lived here all her life. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She wants her child to go out and explore the world when they grow up.

•   But eventually come back when they grow older

•   Both of her children are in school right now

•   She supports whatever her child decides

•   People started growing garlic because of economic reasons

•   More profit than the long beans

My fourth contact was Mrs. Su [10]. She is the owner of a small stand near the Si Fang Jie. She is a local person, and has lived here all her life. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She wants her child to go out and explore the world

•   Come back if she wants to

•   Everything depends on her wish

•   Will not plan her child’s future

•   People started growing garlic because of economical reasons

•   She gets all her food at the morning market

•   Most fields here are not planted by local people

•   Long beans earn less money that the garlic, and requires more attention

My fifth contact was Mr. Wang [11]. He is an owner of a horse carriage. He has a boy around the age of 17, and is studying outside of the city. Here is what I learned while interviewing him.

•   He wants his child to go outside of the village

•   He is happy as long as they visit regularly

•   Health and happiness is the most important thing

•   Garlic farming happens due to outside influence

•   Farms here are mostly owned by outer provinces

•   They get farmers from outer provinces

My sixth contact was Mr. Ma [12]. He is one of the many farmers that was working in the garlic fields around Linden Centre. The farmers were all really friendly and joked around with us. Here is what I learned while interviewing him.

•   They claim they have been farming garlic for a long time (needs to be confirmed)

•   They showed me where the bean fields are

•   They get the sprout of the garlic from Sichuan (check if used GM)

•   We can eat garlic stems without cooking or washing it

•   Long bean production has been dropping since the start of garlic

•   They are all local people, from Xizhou town

•   Garlic earns more money, requires less labor and reduces the use of pesticides

•   They are working for one big business owner

•   The blue scarves around their heads are used to protect themselves from the sun

I researched online for effects of growing GM (genetically modified) plants, using the website JRSM as a resource [13]. Here is what I learned while reading the article.

•   Food made from GM (Genetically Modified) plants has been consumed for hundreds of million people across the global, and with no reported ill effects.

•   The public is generally unaware about the advantages and disadvantages of a GM plant

•   Using the traditional way, plants take about 15 years to produce new varieties

•   GM allows this process to shorten greatly and over comes the barrier of sexual incompatibility of between plant species and increases the size of available gene pools

•   The technology can be used to engineer abiotic stresses (droughts, extreme temperature). Biotic stresses (insects), the technology can also be used to increase the nutritional content of the plant.

•   Many animal food in the EU are using GM products

•   Potential concern is that the DNA consumed in the food maybe toxic

•   May create new unknown allergens

My seventh local contact is a farmer named Mr. Zhang [13]. He is one of the farmers that are currently working on the garlic fields just next to Xizhou. They are from Eryuan, which is a place that started growing garlic since the last generation. Here is what I learned while interviewing him.

•   They are from Eryuan

•   They have been growing garlic since the last generation

•   People started growing garlic due to economic reasons

•   When garlic price is high, they sell better than the beans

•   Surprisingly, they say that the beans are easier to maintain than the garlics

•   They all work for a big business owner

•   They grow and harvest crop, which is then sent to a place where they are divided into groups, then sent to smaller business owners.

My eighth local contact is Mrs. Li [15]. She is one of the farmers that was farming the beans on the road to Erhai. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She is farming beans because due to the soil, the garlic production is not very good and so no big businesses would want the piece of land

•   Even if they have to give the big businesses money, (not earn anything), they would do it due to the fact that they do not have enough labor.

•   She does not have enough time to farm herself due to having to take care of children

•   Every time she comes to the field she can only work for a small amount of time

•   She does not want the fields to go to waste

•   Farming beans actually earns more than farming garlic

•   The rent for an acre of land they only earn 1000 RMB per season

•   If they want both garlic and patty field, the rent is 2000 per year

•   She farms beans for her family, and if there are any left overs, they sell it for some profit

•   if they have enough people in Xizhou to work on the fields themselves, they would earn more money

My ninth local contact is Mrs. Zhang. She is one of the people that helps other people with their fields. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   The price of garlic dropped this year due to the decline of Korean exports

•   Last year they used to be 8-9 kuai per Kg, this year they dropped to 4-5 kuai

•   The beans cost about 2-3 kuai per Kg

•   They are helping because the owner cannot find any labor

•   They have been farming garlic for quite a long time now

•   People stopped wheat farming because they do not really eat the food, and most families do not know how to cook the food

•   They farm the wheat for their families only

•   Most of the fields now in Xizhou are rented by the big business owners

My tenth local contact was Mrs. Li. She is one of the farmers that were working on planting corn over near the highway. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She is not farming for big businesses

•   Farming herself earns more than farming for the businesses

•   She has two fields, one that is used to grow corn and garlic, the other one is used to farm beans and rice

•   They first use chemical fertilizers, but then after that they use the bio-fertilizer

•   They farm garlic and bean in the dryer times of the year (winter, spring)

•   During the wet times they grow corn and rice (summer, autumn)

•   Some places in Xizhou can grow up to 3 seasons

•   But the dryer climates can only grow about 3 seasons

My eleventh local contact is Mrs. Duan [17]. She was a villager working in the fields, finding the left overs of the farming and taking it away for her family. She owns a field of her own, but due to the limit of time and labor, she decides to rent it to the bigger companies and work on something else (fishing). Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She does not have to farm one her own

•   She was working on the fields that day because she had time (since fishing is mostly in the morning)

•   She is just taking some for her family

•   She did not want to grow herself because the big business know what kind of seeds and fertilizers are best, and they have a special route. The farmers do not, and so they do not have the ability to grow as much and earn as much

•   Garlic has the ability to kill germs

•   They burn all the garlic stems (any left over garlic)

•   She does not know the effect of burning garlic and putting all that sulfur into the air and causing problems such as pollution and lastly the result of global warming.

•   She thinks that because she is burning in the fields, it would not affect other places such as the village and the cities.

My twelve local contact is Mrs. Zhang [18]. She is the big business owner of a patch of garlic fields. Today we saw her working with the farmers and harvesting the crops. Something surprised me is that the farmers did not want to answer the questions. I think it is because they think they are less educated, and all of them pointed to the owner and told be to interview her. Here is what I learned while interviewing her.

•   She rents the fields and then ask local people to work

•   She sends the garlic to the big cities.

•   They burn all the garlic stems and roots that are left over

•   They only harvest one season, the season being the garlic season

•   They send the garlic to Xiaguan and then garlic is distributed over the province

•   They get the saplings from outer places and then regrows it themselves

•   A season of garlic lasts about 3 months

My thirteenth local contact is Mrs. Yang [19]. She is one of the owners of the fruit stand at the market place. Here is what I learned while her.

•   When fruits are not in season, they import it from outer places

•   Xizhou only grows a relatively small variety of fruits

•   Since she has had the stand, she has imported foods

•   Less people in the village is growing their own fruits

•   A lot of fruit are transported from far away (Thailand)

•   They freeze the fruit when it is in season, and export it using trucks when it is not in season

My fourteenth local contact is Mr. Zhao [20]. He is a really friendly friend and a buddy to Mr. T. He is an awesome person and answered all my questions with enthusiasm. He confirmed much information that the farmers told me. Here is what I learned while interviewing him.

•   He owns a field

•   From the very beginning, garlic farming was really good in the area and the sizes have always been the same (all same in size)

•   Many of the farms are already taken away by big businesses

•   The prices of many vegetation product has risen a little

•   Many of the vegetable and fruits are imported from Xiaguan

•   Using chemical fertilizers affect the soil (it makes it harder)

•   Barely anyone uses bio fertilizer (since no one has their own animals anymore)

•   They use chemical, which is causing the soil to go bad

•   Burning crops is affecting the weather in Xizhou

•   During the land reform, the houses were distributed, so were the farm lands

•   The price of garlic has dropped

Mr. Zhao confirmed a lot of my sources and facts. I learned a lot from him, on things that are not even related to the inquiry project

Answers From Previous Questions (From Phase 1):

These are the questions that I came up with during Phase 1, as I learned more and more about my topic, my perspective and interest changed. Before I was only focused on the process and the effects to the farmers only, now I am more interested in the big picture, burning the crop (causing pollution), taking away job opportunities if stopped, no education of the global warming and the ozone layer... I canceled out some of the questions and made new ones that is connected to my topic right now.

1)    What would happen in the event of natural disasters?

2) If a natural disaster occurs, do farmers have a back up plan or savings to keep them going?

3) Did the Yunnan earthquake affect the harvest of the crops?

4) How much do they make each year?

It depends on if they farmed themselves are rented the land to other people. If they farmed themselves, they make a few thousands per season depending on the harvest. If they rented to the bigger companies, they would get 1000 per season.

5) would the farmers want to change their jobs or do something else for their living?

Many of the farmers have no choice due to having not enough labor and having to take care of the family. This is one of the reasons that they rent the land to the big businesses although they can earn much more if they farmed themselves.

6) Would they rather spend more money for machines, or would they rather spend more time but lower the costs?
7) Do the farmers want their children to make their living as a farmer?

Most of the farmers and the villagers wanted their child to go out and explore the world when they are young, and when they grow old, they can come back if they wanted. As long as they are happy and healthy, none of the parents would plan their life for them nor force them to do anything they wanted.

8) What ways do they use to prevent bugs and anything that would harm their plants?

9) How many hours a day do they spend taking care of the plants? (not including harvest and planting)

10) Who do they sell their product to?

Many of the farmers farm for themselves; the farmers who rent their fields farm for the businesses. A really small portion of the farmers farm for the community now, and the stalls are forced to either buy from the big businesses or import it from other places.

I am finished with the 24 hour time which we were given time to do field research. In the next Phase, Phase 4 will include the preparation and the out line for the final product.


1. Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing,, accessed 2nd of February

2. Learning the Process,, accessed 4th of February

3. Rice, Cultivation and Harvesting,, accessed 4th of February

4. Jillian K. (Alumni-C), accessed 6th of February

5. Andre R. (Alumni-D), accessed 5th of February

6. Brian Linden. Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 10, 2015

7. 严奶奶 (grandma Yan). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 12, 2015

8. 杨爱刚 (Mr. Yang). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 12, 2015

9. Mrs. Li (李小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 13, 2015

10.          Mrs. Su (速小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 13, 2015

11.          Mr. Wang (王先生). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 13, 2015

12.          Mr. Ma (马先生). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 16, 2015

13.          Genetically modified plants and human health,, accessed March 17th

14.          Mr. Zhang (张先生). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 17, 2015

15.          Mrs. Li (李小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 18, 2015

16.          Mrs. Li (李小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 18, 2015

17.          Mrs. Duan (段小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 23, 2015

18.          Mrs. Zhang (张小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 23, 2015

19.          Mrs. Yang (杨小姐). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 23, 2015

20.          Mr. Zhao (赵先生). Personal Interview Conducted by Chu Chuan W. March 24, 2015


My name is Chu Chuan W., and I was in Xizhou for 28 days in a program called Microcampus, during that time, we bonded with our group mates and with the villagers. This time was the best memory of my 8th grade life. I only wish that the future Microcampus have as much fun as we did, and I certainly hope I can visit again in the future.