Improved conditions attract young people back to rural villages

By ZHAO RUIXUE in Jinan| (China Daily)| Updated : 2022-11-03

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A farmer tends to cucumbers in a greenhouse in Gengdian village in Liaocheng, Shandong province. ZHAO YUGUO/FOR CHINA DAILY

Attracted by the improved rural environment and promising agricultural development, more young people in Shandong province, a major agriculture base in China, have returned to their hometowns to seek out careers.

The young people have brought vitality back to villages with their energetic presence found in areas from greenhouses to the public affairs.

"It's easier for young people to use new ideas and technologies to develop the agricultural industry, including more efficient ways of growing and marketing," said Geng Zunzhu, Party chief of Gengdian village in Chiping district, Liaocheng.

Cao Youzhong, born in 1988 in Gengdian, returned to his hometown in 2018 after working for several years in Beijing and in Changsha, Hunan province.

He operates seven greenhouses growing green peppers, 11 grape greenhouses, as well as a 3-hectare pear orchard.

These days, he is busy fertilizing the pear orchard with the farmers he employs. At the busiest time, he needs to employ 30 farmers to work in his greenhouses and orchard.

"Great changes have taken place in our village, with new roads, power and water facilities, to name but a few. In addition, there is a wholesale market and vegetable seedling cultivation base here, which provide everything I need to grow greenhouse vegetables," said Cao.

"Unlike in the past, a lot of jobs can be done with machines," he said.

Cao uses the cotton-packed covers on top of the greenhouses as an example. The heavy covers are automatically controlled and farmers need only press a button to roll the covers up and down.

He has registered his own brand for his pears in order to expand in the market. Pears packaged in branded boxes have been sold in Shanghai and in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Cao can make a total annual income of around 500,000 yuan ($69,350) from growing peppers, grapes and pears, which is much higher than what he earned previously working in cities, he said.

And he is not alone. According to statistics provided by the village, during the past decade, a total of 112 young people have returned to develop the agricultural industry in Gengdian.

With rural vitalization funds provided by governments and funds collected from local enterprises, the village has built more facilities including a low-temperature refrigerated warehouse and a training base to help young people develop their careers.

To date, the training base has trained hundreds of farmers, including those from other villages, in how to operate greenhouses to grow vegetables and fruits.

"The young people are bringing vitality to the village," said Geng Fuqi, the secretary of the Communist Youth League in the village, adding every time he calls for help with village work, the young people respond actively.

"They volunteered to help manage the village. They have been playing an important role in controlling and preventing the COVID-19 epidemic and promoting awareness of telecom and online fraud prevention among the elderly," said Geng Fuqi.