Huron High School alumni take ag trip to China

Farm Forum

Two South Dakota natives, alumni of Huron High School, recently found themselves in very different cultural surroundings this summer.

Lauren Uttecht (nutrition and food science major with a dietetics specialization) and Jenna Rausch (animal science major) joined 32 other students and three faculty members from SDSU on an agricultural expedition in China from May 6 to 19.

Among the cities they visited in China were: Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Beijing. In these cities the group toured the Femur Head Hospital, Tian Jin Port, Pioneer Genetics and China Agricultural University, among other places.

“Coming from the Midwest, it was eye-opening to see all of the aquaculture products and operations. I previously had no exposure to any aquaculture until this trip,” said Uttecht. She said that the aquaculture of China includes various fish breeds, shrimp and duck.

Rausch said that she learned a lot about the operations of the Chinese agricultural field in comparison to the U.S.

“China has the technology and money to become just as successful in the livestock business as the U.S.,” said Jenna. “But they first need to learn simple yet very important management practices. An example would be the process of cutting and packing silage correctly to feed to their beef and dairy cattle. If a large part of the ration (silage) is moldy, then they will not have full production potential.”

Rausch also explained that the farming business in China seems to be “looked down upon” by the next generation. “Not many young people are interested in the business,” she said, mentioning that another challenge that the Chinese agricultural industry faces is low yields due to manual harvesting, planting, weeding and spraying.

After talking with China’s Pioneer Genetics, and discovering that China also has a problem with fraud, Rausch said that she realized how important rules and regulations are in order to keep the agriculture business successful.

However, Uttecht described the positives of the agricultural businesses in China.

“Along with all the farms we toured, it was interesting to learn the protein contents of finished products and various raw materials,” said Lauren. “It was educational to see where U.S. soybeans actually end up in China and what they are used for.”

Uttecht said that a highlight of the trip was “seeing the use of traditional Chinese medicine” in the Femur Head Hospital. “I had a class last semester on alternative health care which included a portion on Chinese medicine,” she said. “Not many people can take that textbook information and then view it in that cultural setting.”

Rausch and Uttecht were both interested in the “wet markets” of China and the cultural meals.

“The wet markets were very interesting to say the least,” said Rausch. “In China, they do not have grocery stores such as Wal-Mart or a HyVee to go food shopping at. What they have is large open buildings that are open between the hours of 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. that residents and restaurants shop at to get their fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Whole carcasses and cuts of meat, fish and eggs were sitting out in the open air without refrigeration during the hours the markets were open,” she said. “This experience really made me appreciate the safe food that I take for granted every single day.”

Of the Chinese diet, Uttecht said, “It has a lot of tea, mostly green tea, and various desserts made out of red beans.”

“Most of the milk products were dry or warm,” she added, explaining that many Chinese are lactose intolerant. The Chinese dairy industry, she said, is therefore quite small. “Oil is a staple, and there wasn’t much sugar or grease in anything.”

Rausch agreed that the meals were different than the American food she is used to.

“Meals were brought out in waves,” said Rausch, “First, a dish of duck cut up in smaller pieces, then rice, then a vegetable stir-fry, then some sort of soup, then a dish of some sort of fish. The broccoli, carrots, celery, peppers, pretty much any type of vegetable or fruit was amazing.” She said that a final dish of fruit usually indicated that the meal was over.

“Some crazy things that I tried,” said Jenna, “Were chicken brains, fish tail and fish stomach soup. The fish, and sweet and sour sauce that was usually added to it, was also really tasty, after you got past the bones and sometimes the scales that were still on it.”

Jenna said that most meat that was served had a thick layer of fat around it.

“When cattle are in the feedlot they have a regular feedlot ration, but they have their cattle drink twenty percent beef, then the rest water, because it adds marbling and fat to the meat,” she explained.

While in China, Lauren and Jenna were also able to visit tourist sites and areas such as the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square, the Olympic Village and the Forbidden City. Lauren said that a “major highlight” of the trip was being able to climb the Great Wall of China. “It was truly a breathtaking and once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said.

All in all, the new cultural surroundings that these two South Dakota natives were able to experience left an influential impact on their lives.

“Within China, each city we visited had a different culture and feel to it,” said Uttecht.

“The trip will help me professionally by seeing a traditional Chinese diet first-hand as well as understanding another culture,” she said. “You don’t understand where someone is from unless you’ve been there.”

Finally, Rausch summed it up.

“After traveling to China, it really made me appreciate the people that work so hard in the agriculture industry here in the U.S.,” she said.