Yang Xiuyan works in her vegetable base. [Xinhua]
In the early hours in the morning, entrepreneur Yang Xiuyan and the farmers with her vegetable-growing base are busily weighing bags of freshly-picked peppers before sending them to Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province.
Yang from Shunchang Town of the province's Shuicheng County has dedicated herself to leading her townspeople to shake off poverty over the past seven years.
By vigorously developing pollution-free farming, she aims to build the town into the "veg basket" of nearby cities.
In 1999, Yang borrowed some money from her relatives and friends and started a garment company. Later, she developed her scope to car repairs and the sale of building materials.
Everything went smoothly and her family enjoyed a well-off life. Yang could have always lived a comfortable life like this but the living conditions of those in her community have always been a concern for her.
"Shunchang is a typical agricultural town. People here still adopt a traditional farming lifestyle – they go to work in the fields at sunrise and return home at sunset," she said.
"The soil, climate, water and other natural conditions in my town are especially suitable for growing out-of-season vegetables. However, villagers planted vegetables only to meet their own needs rather than sell the vegetables to increase profit."
Yang said, in addition to natural advantages, there were neither factories nor mining enterprises locally. "So I thought why not make use of the advantages and develop planting and breeding industries?"
Yang decided to have a try. She investigated the mountains, rivers and fields across the town, taking over 300 bags of soil samples.
The sample testing results indicated the local land was particularly suitable for planting high-quality, pollution-free vegetables.
In 2010, Yang established a farmers' cooperative which raised pigs and later grew vegetables near its hog farm.
In 2012, she and 10 cooperative members raised 200,000 yuan (U.S.$ 31,000) each to contract land from local farmers for growing vegetables.
"In the beginning, villagers refused to transfer land use rights to us for fear of losing their guarantee of life," Yang remarked.
After repeated explanations, seven households agreed to rent the cooperative 0.66 hectares of land altogether. But, due to improper management, Yang lost all her vegetables and investment.
"In 2013, I suffered the greatest losses and was most heavily indebted. Many times, I was even unable to pay villagers who worked on my base," she added.
"At that time, the Chinese Lunar New Year was approaching. I had to keep my word and prevent involved farmers from making a loss. So I borrowed money everywhere."
Yang borrowed 2.19 million yuan (U.S.$ 340,300) from rural credit cooperatives, banks and micro-credit loan companies, as well as people around her. Using the money, she paid various expenses and farmers' land shares.
Through this matter, Yang gained trust from villagers who became enthusiastic about joining her business.
Due to the losses, Yang's family was under huge debts. Despite relatives' complaint and the great financial pressure she faced, she thought about the reason for her failure carefully.
Later, she visited many areas in Guizhou, east China's Zhejiang Province and southwest China's Yunnan Province to learn planting.
In 2014, Yang set up a seedling-growing center at her base and restarted her business. This time, she made it.
Adopting a mode that integrated cooperatives, rural households and bases, Yang mobilized local farmers to become shareholders by contributing land or money.
To date, her planting scale has reached 23.4 hectares. Under her leadership, locals have sold their farm products to south China's Guangzhou City and southwest China's Chongqing.
Moreover, they have signed agreements with wholesalers, building stable sales channels.
By 2016, her vegetable base had solved the employment problem of 88 people. Led by Yang, 512 rural households had shaken off poverty by growing taro.
This year, Yang's cooperative has stimulated farmers across the town to plant some 140 hectares of taro, pepper, ginger and other agricultural plants.
Yang said her next plan was to increase her town's vegetable farming area to 200 hectares so as to help all the impoverished rural households in the region find employment on their doorsteps and shake off poverty as soon as possible.
(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)