This is Gung Gin, the owner of greenhouse #1 in Qing Ni Jian, a small town near Lingqiu. He and his wife, Liu Guipin, are raising onions inside their greenhouse this summer, as well as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers outside. They have a small pen for three pigs, and soon they’ll be harvesting their summer crop of millet and corn. In many ways, they’re typical of the farmers we’ll be working with in Lingqiu: they have a diversified farm, raising animals, growing grains in their larger fields, and raising vegetables on a much smaller piece of land. Like most American farmers, Gung Gin and Liu Guipin are in their late 50s; their children have grown up and moved away, and these two, along with two hired workers who are also in their fifties, do all the work to keep their farm running.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible, thanks in large part to some technologies that weren’t available when Gung Gin and Liu Guipin first started working on their families’ farms: they can buy improved seed varieties and inorganic fertilizers in town, and get them delivered by truck to their farm. They use a walk-behind rototiller to till up their greenhouse and vegetable fields. And now, they’re using drip irrigation.
The family greenhouse is 70 meters long and about 8 meters wide; without drip irrigation, it takes three hours to water all the rows. All the greenhouses are hooked up to the same water supply, so if the neighbors are watering at the same time, the pressure drops and it takes even longer. Some commercial drip irrigation won’t work with such variable pressure, but ours is designed to work best with low pressure and low volume. So far, it’s working well in Gung Gin’s Greenhouse #1 and the other seven greenhouses in the row; come November, we’ll be installing systems in 200 greenhouses in this region.