Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 4 years 2 days ago

In Phase 0, I chose my Inquiry Project of photography and farming. In Phase 1, I worked on gathering some background information on my topic and I generated some questions about my project. In this Phase I have gathered knowledge both before the trip and on the trip.

Background Information: (from Phase 1): 

My Inquiry Project is photography and farming. Since there is little to no background research to be done about photography, I am focusing on learning about farming.

China has a history of about 10,000 years in farming. Long ago, China was a river civilization, and much of its landscape was covered in loess (a fine yellow dirt). Later, the Chinese began rice cultivation. As I mentioned before, China was a river civilization and it had annual flooding. The fields would be filled with soft soil and the farmers would place each plant by hand in the rice field. Since they did not have lots of animals, farmers often used human waste to fertilize. This allowed them to use the fields year after year. As a result, rice cultivation flourished in China and its population immensely increased as well.[2]

As shown in paragraph 1, rice flourished in China. The Chinese had a different way of planting crops than anywhere else in the world. They used Row Crop Farming. This style of farming is planting seeds in rows which is still used in China nowadays. This orderly way of farming allows the farmers to irrigate more effectively and produce a higher crop yield. [1] In the past, the farmers used different irrigation techniques then now but, some are still around today. One example is the Dujiangyan irrigation system. It was invented over 2,200 years ago and it was built to control flooding in the areas around the Minjiang river. Unlike the Dujiangyan dam, the modern dams do not let any water flow through. However the Dujiangyan style dams, still allow water and aquatic life to flow through. [1]

Lastly I would like to research about the ancient farming tools that were used in China. In the third century B.C, iron supplies and casting techniques led to the invention of iron plowshares. This tool made furrowing fields and planting crops in rows so much easier. The first iron plow was made in 475-221 B.C [1], [3]. Another important tool that was used in Chinese agriculture was the water wheel. They created this with wood. On one side of the beam was a bucket and on the other side there was something heavy. This device saved lots of energy by applying the lever. This was a start of mechanics[4]. Water power was used to grind grain. The Chinese workers used water power to operate billows and operate hydraulic hammers that were used for hulling rice and crushing ore. [1]

After all this research on the history of Chinese farming, I would like to focus on learning about how farmers farm in the 21st century. However, my online sources do not have much detail as China is more modernized nowadays. However, when I get to the village, I plan on learning on their farming techniques, tools, and history. In China, there are two types of modern agriculture. These are rural area agriculture and urban agriculture. [5] According to 2010 statistics, 51.3 percent of China's population live in rural areas. There are roughly 500 million farmers. The workers in rural areas often provide enough to eat but there is usually not much left to sell. They are lacking in some basic services such as education, health, and new technology. [6] The definition of urban agriculture is  the practice of incorporating farming into city areas through mixed land use and innovating techniques that allow cultivation to occur on much smaller plots of land. [7] Urban agriculture has been developed alongside the growth of its cities. It was very efficient. In fact, many of China's largest cities almost exclusively sustained themselves with local produce [8]. In Xizhou I plan on learning on how their farming relates to each one, which tools they use, and the history of this specific area. 

Information From 3-to-5's:

- There was not a huge change in crops over the years
- The biggest change over time was in fertilizers
- Changes in farming have not affected the lively hood of farmers a lot

- Garlic gives more money than canola oil
- Er Yuan has more farmers than Xizhou
- Local people plant garlic in small areas 

Information From Local Contacts:

11/03/16 Gao Li Chuan

Gao Li Chuan is a local farmer that lives close to the Linden Centre. This afternoon, Ms. Jo and I went to farming fields and we found Gao Li Chuan. We then asked her questions about her life and farming. She was willing to share the following information and her point of views with us.

  • Started farming when she was a child
  • She would do farm work after school
  • Her family did not have a lot of money
  • Gao Li Chuan did not think the work was too hard
  • In the morning before school she needed to collect the crops
  • She thought it was fun to have this job since her parents did not assign her a lot of work
  • Farming mostly changed in technology and the fertilizers
  • Before they needed to put fertilizers in by hand and now everything is done with machines
  • She is very happy about the changes with technology and the chemical fertilizers
  • This saves her a lot of money and work time
  • The chemical fertilizers help the crops grow faster
  • Gao Li Chuan did not think of the effects this could have on the environment
  • Before, they used to only use natural fertilizers (animal waste)
  • They did not have enough fertilizers so they did not have enough food
  • With the chemical fertilizers, they always have enough
  • She is also getting more financial gain with this change
  • Her parents used to work from sunrise to sunset now she works from 8:30am to 6:30pm
  • In her perspective, this change is a good thing
  • However, she prefers how healthy the food was before
  • She is doing this type of farming because everyone else is doing it as well

15/03/16 Yan Ayi / Yan Xue Zhen

Yan Ayi or Yan Xue Zhen is the gardener at the Linden Centre, Linden Commons, and Yang Zhou Ran. Today, Mr. Jake and I went to go visit her at the Linden Commons. We asked her about her life and she shared her information with us. 

  • Worked in Linden Centre, Linden Commons, and Yang Zhou Ran for 5 years
  • Before she was a business woman
  • Went she came to Xizhou she did farming then she changed to working with the Linden Centre
  • She was making Xizhou Baba in Kunming then came to Xizhou and did Farming
  • Used to plant vegetables now she just gardens
  • Her parents both did farming
  • She said the hardest task was harvesting rice
  • Before they had no machine and used a shovel like tool
  • She has her own small field to plant her own foods
  • In her own field she does not use any pesticides and all the food is natural
  • Now there are even machines for planting crops
  • The machines don't make the food unhealthy, pesticides do
  • She prefers eating healthy food without pesticides

16/03/16 Ms. Zhang / A Feng

Ms. Zhang (A Feng) works in the housekeeping at the Linden Centre, Linden Commons, and Yang Zhou Ran. Mr. Jake and I went to go meet her at the Linden Commons and she kindly shared the following information with us.

  • Started farming 10 years ago
  • There was a very young baby in the house
  • They could not go far to earn lots of money
  • They started farming
  • Very hard to start farming in the beginning
  • Farming has changed a lot over the years
  • Change in crops
  • Now they have factories to make rice
  • Before they used hands
  • She thinks that this is a good change as it saves a lot of energy
  • Ms. Zhang does not have enough space to grow only her own crops
  • So, she still needs to buy some crops from the market
  • However she eats her own rice and garlic
  • Her parents used to do farming but now they are elders and are retired
  • She does not like the pesticides
  • She prefers the healthier food
  • She prefers the way of farming before for the heath of the food
  • However she thinks the machines are very helpful

22/03/16 Mr. Zhao

Mr. Zhao works in the market place making things out of gold and silver. His family were all farmers in the past and so was he. Mr. Zhao told me the following details about his life.

  • He rents out 4 "mu" of land
  • He started farming at 18 years old
  • He did not go to university
  • Graduated middle school at 16 years old (1985/1986)
  • His parents were farmers as well
  • Everything was done by hand with the help of hoes and other tools
  • They had individual plots of land
  • He only needed to farm 2 or 3 hours a day so it was okay
  • Before 1949 his family was wealthy
  • After 1949, they were treated badly
  • They were put at the bottom of the social class
  • Before 1982 they only did collective farming
  • Had to work 2 or 3 days to get one mao
  • For each day at work they would get work credits
  • Use work credits (gong fen) to purchase food
  • 1964 - 1982 were the hardest years
  • If 7 people worked only 5 got paid
  • They could not have survived as farmers
  • They secretly made gold and silver products and traded it for more food
  • Because they had money they were able to trade
  • The talent they had saved their lives
  • Before 1949 only governments were allowed to have gold
  • They had gold hidden in their homes
  • Secretly making gold at night time to trade with upper class
  • The economy was completely broken down
  • His family had to make sure to trade with the right people
  • They work as gold and silver makers now
  • He does not farm anymore

Answers to Previous Questions: (from Phase 1):
During these past few weeks studying farming I have cut off some of my big questions and adjusted others. Some of my questions were completely useless and some were the base of a conversation. In the end I did not keep any of my original 10 but I made a new list of the most important questions I asked. However the answer to each of these questions varied.

1. When did you start farming?
2. Why did you start farming?
3. Where your parents farmers as well?
4. How difficult was your life when you started farming?
5. Did farming change overtime here in Xizhou? If so, how?
6. Are you happy with the modern ways of farming?
7. Which way do you prefer?


1. Online: Ancient Chinese Farming Techniques:, viewed on the 23rd of January
2. Online: China Farming:, viewed on the 23rd of January.
3. Online: Iron Plow:, viewed on the 26th of January.
4. Online: Chinese Waterwheel:, viewed on the 26th of January.
5. Online: Study on Basic Characteristics of Modern Agriculture:, viewed on the 30th of January.
6. Online: Rural Life in China:, viewed on the 30th of January.
7. Online: Urban agriculture makes China's cities more liveable:, viewed on the 30th of January.
8. Online: China paves the way for a new definition of urban farming:, viewed on the 30th of January. 
9. Will. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 7, 2016
10. Mr. Jake. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 9. 2016
11. Gao Li Chuan. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 11, 2016
12. Yan Ayi. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 15, 2016
13. Ms. Zhang. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 16, 2016
14. Mr. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Alba N., March 22, 2016

In this Phase, I have collected background information and deeper information about my Inquiry Project farming. With the information I gathered, I modified my questions and got different answers from everyone. I am now confident to move onto Phase 4. In that phase, I have prepared for my Final Product.


Hey Alba, your project sounds

Hey Alba, your project sounds super interesting, glad to hear you're having so much funnn. I hope the last week for you will be equally redeeming, and then you need to get back here, because Annelise is going crazy without you.

Hello, my name is Alba and my time in Xizhou has now ended. I am 13 years old and I attend Shanghai American School. I have lived in Shanghai for 8 years now. Before that I lived in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan. I wanted to join the Microcampus program to experience living out of the "bubble" life. I was a part of the O.R.E.O spring Microcampus trip of 2016. I am so happy I got to come here and learn about my inquiry project, bond with locals, have personal growth and develop more intercultural understanding!