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Chinese graduate uses finance skills to assist farmers in boosting income

Chinese graduate uses finance skills to assist farmers in boosting income
A handout photo. Tourists compete during a dragon boat race held in the mud at Paddy Art Dream Park in the northern outskirts of Shenyang, Liaoning province.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

Different from most women in their 20s, Zhang Wanting chose to work with farmers instead of taking a position as a college lecturer after gaining her master's degree in finance from overseas.

Now her eco farm has become one of the most famous agricultural tourist attractions in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning province, demonstrating the nation's efforts to improve farmers' incomes.

Zhang's eco farm, Paddy Art Dream Park, which covers 20 million square metres, is fueled by paddy planting, food processing and tourism. Last year, it attracted over 200,000 visitors, provided over 200 jobs and benefited over 2,000 local villagers.

"I love this land and hope to build it into a modern farmland that could provide people with natural beauty and prosperity," Zhang said.

"Because everyone dreams of returning to the countryside to enjoy a comfortable environment and refreshment."

Paddy Art Dream Park is located in the northern outskirts of Shenyang. As the nation's granary, the region enjoys vast farmland but faces the challenge of improving the incomes of farmers who used to mainly rely on agricultural output.

Experts suggest that the key is to make use of the unique advantage of the countryside instead of moving farmers into cities.

"An eco farm is not only a new attempt to modernize agriculture, but also a new form of agricultural industrialization. It could fundamentally transform traditional agriculture," said Li Hongbiao, a senior researcher at the China Academy of Northeast Revitalization.

"The eco farm is of great significance to help improve farmers' incomes and promote the sustainable and healthy growth of the rural economy."

Zhang Jian, a local farmer who signed a contract with the eco farm, told China Daily that he made over 100,000 yuan ($2,000) last year.

"I can have better access to seeds, pesticides and fertilizers and even harvesting via the eco farm, which has better bargaining power," he said.

Furthermore, the eco farm provides financing services as well as rice sales services-two major challenges for farmers-so farmers can focus on green ecological planting and improving food quality.

So far, more than 400 farmers have joined Zhang Wanting, and their combined incomes increased to over 5 million yuan last year.

"With more partners, we could explore the new food processing industry, which includes rice noodles, brown rice ice cream and rice pudding," she explained. "Tourism is the major driving force for my farm because it can help the farm attract attention and drive consumption."

After six years of operation, her eco farm has won the title of national 3A-level scenic area, and more college graduates have joined her to find their dreams.

"The new countryside should not be dirty and messy, but a place that people yearn for," she said.

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