From Saturday, June 20 to Monday, June 22 we were at Gaos farm in Anlong village, about an hour and a half northwest of Chengdu. Where do I begin talking about this village and farm, there is just so much to say? When we first got there I was honestly a little nervous and was not having the best time but as the time we spent there went on and I started learning more about the place we were staying I gained a greater appreciation and love for the farm, village and the Gao family. Grandma and grandpa Gao started the farm about 10 years ago. The farm is completely sustainable and organic. They grew up as farm workers and wanted to switch to organic in order to protect the environment. They work with the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association to help protect the river that runs through Anlong.
In China it is very hard to find organic produce and the organic produce you can find is about three times more expensive than the non organic. With nonorganic farming practices comes a lot of issues such as pollution from the pesticides and the ingestion of all the pesticides. The Gao family had to read books to learn about how to farm organically. They have about 20 mus of land to farm which is about 3 acres. There are a few plots where people can come and plant their own vegetables. Mr. Gao also takes the produce into the city to deliver it to people who have ordered the produce.
They farm is completely sustainable and makes a very small amount of waste. They have compost, trash and recycling bins everywhere. They composted produce is used for fertilizer in the garden. They also feed some of the scraps to the three dogs that they have. When using the toilet (never a pleasant experience) there was a hole for pee and a hole for poop. The fumes are than used as electricity. In the garden they don’t use any pesticides on their vegetables. They use mint as a natural insecticide both on themselves and for the garden. The irrigation system is water from the river.
To wash our dishes we had to first scrub them with rice husk. I’m still not entirely sure what that does but I think it soaks up all of the oil and grease from the dishes, I assume so when you rinse it with water it doesn’t go into the river. They do not use soap and I think for the same purpose but I’m not sure how the dishes are disinfected (I think Americans have a very high Standard of cleanliness. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing in terms of the health of people and the planet. The products we use now to disinfect are mostly all chemicals which eventually leach into the water and ground).
They also buy very little of their food, most of it is grown and made from produce on their farm. The Gao family is mostly vegan since they are Buddhist. They make their own soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, etc. The food we had there was amazing!! We helped to pick the vegetables that would be used in our food. My favorite foods we ate were the fried potato slices, zucchini, scallion pancakes and the tofu we helped to make. the second day there we helped Mr. Gao weed a garden plot and later that day we helped grandma Gao plant eggplant and some other weed looking thing that she ripped out of one garden plot so we could replant it in the new garden plot. Grandma Gao is an extremely harder worker especially for being 71, she stayed out in the farm after we were done and was there before we arrived. Grandma Gao was telling us how much work there is to do on the farm and not enough people. There are only a few other workers on the farm besides grandma, grandpa and mr. Gao. They had a greenhouse fall down and they were not able to get to repairing it and weeding the area this summer because of all the other stuff that needed to be done. Grandma Gao joked that she wished Mr. Gaos new wife would have been a farmer instead of a doctor so she could help on the farm.
The last day of the trip grandma Gao taught us how to make baodzia (steamed buns). We were not very good at making the buns look pretty but they tasted delicious. She also taught us how to make soy milk and tofu. I really liked their more natural and sustainable way of living but I do not think that I could be as extreme as them in some aspects. I do think I can take some of the ideas and concepts that I learned and incorporate them into my daily life. I think all people should start moving back to this more sustainable and natural way of life to help protect the environment and in turn their own health since both are connected.