LANZHOU, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Farmers in Laozhuang Village in northwest China's Gansu Province spend early autumn busily harvesting baby's breath flowers that will be transported thousands of miles away to eastern Chinese cities.
Sun Xuelong, a 48-year-old man, is among the villagers cutting the flowers, dusting off their branches and removing the weeds from the vast flower field.
The flower bunches will be processed and packaged before being sent to the airport in the city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu. The next day, they will appear in flower markets in cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Like many other villagers in Laozhuang, Sun never expected to make a living from growing flowers. Generation after generation, his family would grow corn and other traditional crops on the barren land.
Laozhuang Village, under the jurisdiction of Weiyuan County, is located in the city of Dingxi, which is one of the driest and least developed areas of western China. It was declared "uninhabitable" for humans by visiting UN experts in the 1980s.
Residents living here have long suffered poverty, and many chose to leave their hometowns to earn more money. Sun had worked in Xinjiang as a plumber for seven years to make more money to support his family.
To help the rural area cast off poverty, the local government decided to develop an industry suitable for the village. Previous inspections and trials found that the unique climate and soil in Laozhuang make the village an ideal area for growing flowers.
With the assistance of the government, a horticulture company was introduced to Laozhuang in May 2018 and a high-quality flower industrial park was created as a poverty alleviation project.
Learning that the village has started to develop a flower plantation, Sun took a wait-and-see approach at first. He was not convinced that growing flowers could earn him more money.
The first batch of baby's breath flowers was sold at about 70 yuan (9.8 U.S. dollars) per kg, a much higher price than the three yuan per kg corn is sold for in Gansu.
Once Sun heard how much the flowers were selling for, he decided to quit his job in Xinjiang and return home.
"Growing baby's breath can bring a considerable amount of income. And I don't have to travel far away from my family to make money anymore," Sun said.
Meanwhile, impoverished households in Laozhuang, including Sun's family and other farmers from nearby villages, have been encouraged to participate in flower cultivation. Some offered their land to grow flowers, and others got jobs in the company.
With the founding of a new industry, the company and the village need to provide training for growth techniques and marketing for the villagers.
Sun has now been promoted to an administrative staff member in the company, while his wife takes odd jobs there. The couple can earn at least 5,000 yuan per month.
Wang Zong, an official of Laozhuang Village, said the flower planting area in Laozhuang has reached 15.2 hectares and is home to various types of flowers.
"The industry has provided employment for more than 300 impoverished villagers in Laozhuang and nearby residents," Wang said, adding that the flower industry also utilized abandoned land, making the rural areas more beautiful.
"The flower industry also attracts outside investment and improves villagers' living standards," Wang added.
Besides Laozhuang, the flower industry in Weiyuan County is blossoming. The planting area of flowers in Weiyuan County has now reached more than 67 hectares. More than 6,000 poor residents in the county have seen their income increased by at least 5,000 yuan per year due to the industry.