Cooperative modernized and expanded by founder’s son is boosting profits, prosperity for villagers in Guizhou
Ever since Fan Hongjing quit his job at a securities company in Qingdao, Shandong province, and returned to his home in Baoji township in Liupanshui city, Guizhou province, at the end of 2017, he has been working to develop his business and help fellow villagers pursue prosperity.
The 36-year-old belongs to the Miao ethnic group from Lengfeng village and worked in a series of different jobs in cities such as Chongqing and Qingdao after graduating from Wuhan University in Hubei province in 2009.
“In 2014, I began working at a securities company in Qingdao, where I made around 200,000 yuan ($30,047) a year,” he said. “The good income and easy work brought me a life of ease.”
But gradually, Fan found that he had lost the will to advance in life. As this didn’t strike him as healthy for a young man, he decided he needed a change.
At the end of 2017, he started a business in his hometown.
“During several trips home to visit family, I saw that Guizhou was doing well in agriculture and rural tourism as a result of rural vitalization. I felt I’d have more opportunities and a greater chance to develop back home,” he said.
“Meanwhile, some of the villagers, especially the older ones, were still earning a living as simple laborers. So I also hoped to help more people out of poverty.”
His father, Fan Degui, didn’t support his decision at first.
“He thought that I should make my life outside the mountains, as I had been to college,” Fan Hongjing said. “Working in agriculture like he did wasn’t the modern solution.”
The elder Fan began to plant tea on 20 hectares of hilly land in Lengfeng in 2008. He picked his first harvest the second year and encouraged other villagers to follow his lead.
To help more people make money, he founded a tea planting cooperative in January 2010.
Today, 155 farmers from nearby villages are part of the cooperative, which looks after 128 hectares of tea.
Instead of joining his father in growing tea, Fan Hongjing decided to develop auxiliary businesses that could help fund the main family business.
Between 2018 and 2020, he tried his hand at running supermarkets; raising pigs, sheep, fish and shrimp; and planting strawberries and watermelons, which provided him with short-term cash flow that helped offset the risks of tea production.
In the spring of 2020, using money from his businesses, Fan Hongjing started to help his father manage the cooperative.
He changed his father’s old business model and expanded cultivated areas and production via measures such as securing more orders, leasing more land from villagers and bringing in more advanced technologies and talent.
He also tried to collaborate with famous tea companies that would give him access to advanced technologies and unified standards of the tea production industry.
Fan said annual sales were 12 million yuan last year, up from only 8 million in 2020 and 4 million in 2019.
His success attracted the attention of other college graduates.
Now, seven of them work at the cooperative, including Luo Xia, who graduated from the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.
The 36-year-old took charge of the cooperative’s finances two years ago.
“After graduation, I took on different jobs in Shanghai and Guizhou’s provincial capital, Guiyang,” Luo said.
“I didn’t like the rapid pace of life in big cities, so when I found like-minded young people at the cooperative, I decided to accept Fan’s invitation.”
Last year, Fan Hongjing set up an entrepreneurship and employment training center for young people in his tea processing plant, which has drawn about 100 young villagers back to their roots.
“Young talent like these graduates bring professional knowledge and new ideas,” he said. “Bringing young farmers together can also show the public that agriculture can be vibrant and is not just about manual labor.”