Every month one can see a group of women, dressed in the Miao ethnicity’s traditional dress and hair rounded in a bun, at the farmer’s market in Kunming. They come from HeiNigou, a village around 50 kilome-ters from Kunming. It is a mountainous area of the Miao minority, with 74 households and 243 total inhabitants. They sell their ecological vegetables and some traditional local products in the farmer’s market. Some-times, they also perform the Miao’s songs and dances bring happiness and joy to customers.
Long Xingmei is the "leader" of this group. Forty-three years old, she is the director of the women in the Hei-Nigou village. She has two children, with one daughter married to a man in another village and one son learn-ing to cook.
Long Xingmei jokingly said that she is the "pillar" of the family, needing to work hard for the family and look af-ter the family’s five Mu (1Mu=0.067Ha) of land. She needs to determine what kind of crops to plant and how to sell them. She is the head of the family .
Long Xingmei is deeply in love with her land, and she generally feels that land is of great importance to farmers. She told us that a long time ago, Miao women would hide seeds in their hair so that no matter where they went, they would be able to support themselves. Now, more and more people have migrated to work in the city, but Long Xingmei said that she does not hold such a desire—she wants to be free, as a farmer. Farming can be very tir-ing and does not always produce a great income, but Long Xingmei loves her land and enjoys arranging farming work by herself. In the past, she needed a farming guide through technical personnel for the process of plating, and now she finds success in her fields alone.
It was mid-to-late October, and the corn was ripe for picking. It is not always a comfortable pro-cess, especially because of the potential to be stratched by corn leaves. In the early mornings,Long Xingmei goes to the fields during the corn harvest with a basket and sickle. It takes at least a day for two people to pick around one Mu (1Mu=0.067Ha) of corn. She needs to move back and forth in the daytime, and carrying much corn home at night as well, she sometimes has to go back and forth between fields and several times. After dinner, she and her husband sit around the corn and strip it. Long Xingmei puts the corn cob into plaits to hang under the eaves of corn drying.
Long Xingmei told us that few people eat corn today; most people use it to feed livestock, and sometimes people come to HeiNigou to buy corn. After picking corn, Long Xingmei cuts corn stover and sowed barley. The corn stover is commonly used in animal feed.
The winter is colder than ever in this year, and many vegetables cannot withstand frosty weather. For this weather, Long Xingmei plants barley and potato in around two Mu (1Mu=0.067Ha) of fields. The rest of the fields lie in preparation for planting flue-cured tobacco in March or April of the next year. Due to continuous heavy rains earlier this year, Long Xingmei unfortunately lost much of her tobacco. Many people, however, bought insurance and got a certain amount of compensation in their village. She said that this is a good way to deal with natural disasters and that she will cer-tainly consider buying insurance for the tobacco next year.
Long Xingmei met PEAC in 2010 and had the op-portunity to understand ecological agriculture. After several ecological farm visits and communication with foreign farmers, Long Xingmei has a much more open vision and confidence for her agricul-ture. She started trying to plant certain kinds of veg-etables and corn without pesticides and fertilizers, inspiring a number of other women in the village to also plant vegetables in the same manner.
The minority woman relies on her land year after year, constantly learning and trying dif-ferent agricultural methods to feed a family of four, while also realizing the value of her own life.