>Back in the USA


It is Sunday, January 18 and after many hours of flying, gaining an entire day back after crossing the International Dateline and a couple days of rest we are all safe and sound back in the United States….. and boy are we glad to be home!

It was an incredible trip – once in a lifetime! I had the pleasure of leading an incredible group of individuals on this great adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each and every one of them. We covered a lot of ground in the Peoples Republic of China. We left the hotel each day around 8:00 a.m. and didn’t return until 8:00 p.m. in the evening. Seeing everything from the Great Wall of China to the Forbidden City to the Terracotta Warriors – amazing!

Thank you for reading our blogs – we hope you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Until next time…..

Cindy Hefner
Program Manager, Global Programs
National FFA Organization

>Our last day in China

> Well….. Today was our last full day in China! We are still in Shanghai!

We started out with a presentation from Westfalia Surge (a trip sponsor). A representative from the company spoke to us during breakfast and provided us with lots of great information about China’s dairy industry.

Today’s pace was much slower so we left the hotel a little later than normal. Our first stop was the Yu Garden – a beautiful garden even in the dead of winter and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It covers over 20,000 meters and is filled with lots of beautiful rocks, halls and pagodas….we are sure it is absolutely breathtaking in the summer months.

After leaving the Yu Garden we were given free time to shop for souvenirs in the nearby stores and then traveled to the Bund and Nanjing Road for more shopping. We had a lot of fun purchasing items to bring home to our family and friends.

We ended the evening with an entertaining dinner where some of our fellow participants provided us with some impromptu singing and auctioneering. After dinner we enjoyed an amazing Chinese acrobat show. We were in awe of the performers talents including a contortionist, juggling hats, balancing plates and much more.

We are back at the hotel and are packing our bags and some of us are getting our final massages (very cheap – $20 US dollars for a one hour massage). We leave for the airport in the morning to head back to the United States. This has been an amazing trip! We can’t believe what all we have seen and accomplished in nine days! It has been an experience of a lifetime!

We can’t wait to see all of you in a few short days!….. and to eat a nice big steak and baked potato!!

>Learning about silk!


Greetings from China!

We are blogging from the bus in Suzhou, China. We started the day with a great American breakfast. There were also boiled eggs in soy sauce and sautéed black fungi – sounds delicious doesn’t it? We left the hotel to head to our boat tour on Suzhou Shantang City Canal. The locals call it the Venice of the East. The canal was hand dug in 515 B.C. On the boat cruise we saw how the locals live their every day lives. We saw lots of interesting things including skinned dead chickens hanging from a line on the back patio waiting to be eaten.

After cruising through the canal, we reloaded the bus and headed to the Suzhou Silk Factory. There, our tour guide, Helen, explained to us the silk worm life cycle. Farmers keep the best 5% of silk worms for reproduction. Female worms lay around 400 worms and after hatching they eat for 25 days and begin spinning their cocoon. Then we saw the process of sorting, spinning, dying and weaving. We were able to see their large selection of products made from high quality silk. Many purchased everything from scarves to ties.

We visited the Suzhou Young-Land Company Milk Processing Plant. This plant processes all of the milk from the dairy farm we visited yesterday. In one day they process 15 tons of raw milk into yogurt and whole milk. This company also has 10,000 geese that they sell eggs from. We all had the opportunity to sample their products which were similar to the U.S. products.

The next stop was the Suzhou Institute of Vegetable Crops. They have over 35,000 square meters of greenhouse capacity. They employ 26 technicians and 16 agronomists. They raise more than 30 types of vegetables. They sell 30 percent of their produce to local markets for consumption. The other 70 percent is used to produce seed to be distributed to farmers to plant. They are concentrating on research to improve plant efficiency and growth.

We are now traveling to Shanghai to our hotel. This will be our last city to visit on our trip to China.

More tomorrow….

Dr. D’s Dynasty

Tom Dormody, Group Leader, New Mexico State University
Will Amick, South Carolina
Chris Atkins, Virginia
Doug Giles, Tennessee
Annarose Hart, Kansas
Chanse Huggins, Florida
Justin Krell, Minnesota
Annie Larson, Illinois
Lauren Perry, Nebraska
Chase Rose, Montana
Cain Thurmond, Georgia

>Shanghai Surprise


Good evening fellow Americans!!! This is the last China Bear blog.

We started a very early morning with a delicious American breakfast and headed to the Xian Airport to catch our flight to Shanghai. Shanghai has the second largest airport in China and will soon surpass Beijing. Shanghai is expanding because they will host the 2010 World Expo.

Shanghai translates to “above sea” in Chinese and “kidnap” in English, but thankfully we are all accounted for… After a two hour flight we met our new tour guides, David and Helen. We were shocked to learn that Shanghai’s land area was half that of Beijing’s, but the population is larger with a total of 18 million permanent residents and 4-6 million commuters resulting in a grand total of about 23 million daily! We enjoyed a mouthwatering KFC sandwich on the way to an agricultural development zone. We were captivated by a short video depicting the advances in Chinese agriculture. We then toured the greenhouses complete with herbal mushrooms and hydroponics. Following our tour, we visited the city kennel where we saw various breeds of dogs and even witnessed Chinese police/military dogs in training!

We hopped on the buses and began a three hour (but only about 100 km) trek to a dairy farm in Suzhou. To say the least, we experienced the daily traffic of Shanghai! Along the way, we passed a technical/industrial park that supplies 1/5 of the world’s electronics. As we continued our journey we were amazed by on the largest manmade lakes in China. The lake is home to small crabs which are a Chinese delicacy; unfortunately, they are only available during the month of November. The dairy farm milked over 200 cows three times a day and is planning to expand another 100 head. The cows are fed a mixture of turnips and corn and are cared for by 14 employees who live on the farm. We found it interesting that the farm inseminates with American and Canadian semen and practices embryo transfers. In four months the farm will be fully equipped with a bio-digester which will provide fuel for the farm and nearby villages.
We arrived at our hotel and enjoyed one of our favorite Chinese meals thus far; hopefully the trend will continue! We are looking forward to our canal ride tomorrow! We miss you and our American food too!
Keep the comments coming! We love hearing from home!
Over and out,
Blake Becker, Nebraska
Adrienne Boyette, Florida
Matt Dybedahl, South Dakota
Katie Mosman, Idaho
Kris Newsom, Tennessee
Anna Savelle, Georgia
Shasta Sowers, Virgnia
Ray Scott Spence, North Carolina
Katie Zenk, Minnesota
Clay Zwilling, Illinois

>China’s Largest Ag University

> Today was a very exciting and busy day for our group! There were several really neat events that we were able to participate in.

We started out the day visiting the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University in YangLing, which is China’s largest agricultural university with 23,000 students. The campus was very modern and very large- 3,000 hector to be exact and also over 4,000 faculty. We were given the chance to talk with several students from the university majoring in various agricultural fields. Surprisingly most of the students were extremely proficient in English, allowing us to communicate very easily. We talked a little bit about college life and the similarities about our classes, but also we talked about regular every day differences between our cultures. For example, the Chinese students enjoy watching NBA basketball but we as Americans often tend to prefer NFL football. There are also several things that we share in common such as: the girls have a love for TV shows like Desperate Housewives and movies like Forrest Gump and Finding Nemo.

Then we moved on to have lunch where we talked with the students even more. It was a great opportunity to learn new things and share things with each other that we did not know before. After lunch we traveled to the university’s greenhouses where we looked at their different growing systems. They grew several beautiful exotic plants, as well as vegetables, and papaya trees, which were really cool. They also had a really nice hydroponics system in one of the greenhouses; hydroponics is a way to grow plants without soil- just a nutrient solution.
After leaving the campus and saying our goodbyes to our new found friends, we traveled an hour back to Xian to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which is a symbol of Buddhist history in China. It was interesting to see the monks living their everyday lives, which encompass so much of history.

Finally ending our day we attended a Tang-Dynasty Palace Music and Dance performance with a dumpling dinner which included dumplings made of shark –fin, fish, pork, cow, interesting veggies, duck, and nuts ( a total of 18 different dumplings.) The music and dance show was amazing! The costumes were beautiful and the music and acting was enriched with so many different traces of Chinese culture both present and past. Today we learned so much not only about Chinese history and agriculture, but also about the present day lives of Chinese citizens. In conclusion, we would like to close our blog with a quote that some of our group made up at dinner: “Here’s to squatting toilets, brushing our teeth with bottled water, all while making new friends.”

Peace Out!

The Flobrasotakota Linawinoisginianans (aka: Cindy’s Group)
Carly Barnes, Florida
Berg, South Dakota
Heavner, Illinois
Hunter, Iowa
Long, North Carolina
Monson, South Dakota
Price, Virginia
Steger, Nebraska
Swartzfager, Florida
Young, Minnesota