Iowan family touched by Xi's return visit

Updated: 2012-02-17 15:14

By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)

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MAXWELL, Iowa - Sitting by a fireplace in the Kimberley family's living room 40 miles northeast of Des Moines, Vice-President Xi Jinping chatted with the Iowan family about life on their farm.

"How's life here? Is it convenient?" Xi asked of Martha Kimberley, curious about her daily farm life.

Excited, honored and a little nervous, the family, who grow corn and soybeans, felt at ease and comfortable around Xi on that Thursday morning. Family members said the Chinese vice-president was probably the most important guest they had ever hosted.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for us," said Martha's husband, Rick Kimberley.

The 61-year-old husband told Xi that he started farming in 1972 with his father, who had purchased the 160-acre farm in 1950. The farm, he said, produces more than 5,000 bushels of corn and soybeans.

Returning to a state he had visited 27 years ago as a young official of Hebei province, Xi was wrapping up a tour through Iowa during his five-day visit of the United States. In 1985, Xi led a delegation to Iowa to learn about agricultural technologies.

Xi was given a tour of Kimberley Farm and peppered the family with specific questions: How much grain can the farm's grain bins hold? What kind of new energy does the farm use?

Martha Kimberley said Xi was very personable and described him as "a nice and wonderful person". The Kimberley family said they have received delegations of government officials before, but this visit set a new precedence for them.

"He was really excited (to see the farm and facility). He was genuinely interested in how we do farming here," said Rick and Martha Kimberley.

Kirk Leeds, CEO of Iowa Soybean Association who was also on the tour, said he hopes Xi's visit will bring agricultural ties between Iowa and China to "a higher level".

"We are here to help supply to Chinese people," said Leeds, who next month will be heading to China for an eight-day trade mission along with Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

Iowa is the number one producer of corn, soybean, pork and eggs, but with only more than 3 million people, the state is dependent on trade, said Grant Kimberley, the 36-year-old son of Rick and Martha Kimberley. He said he has regularly visited China on soybean business since 2008.

"We produce more than we consume so we have to rely on trade and China with its population and growing economy. It's great to be its trading partner," he said.

The highlight of the tour came when the Kimberley family showed Xi one of their green John Deere tractors. To everyone's surprise, Xi climbed up into the tractor and sat in the driver's seat.

On Xi's tour of the Kimberley Farm were Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and China's Agriculture Minister Han Changfu.

Xi said he would like to see "long-term and stable" agricultural ties with Iowa.

"We will be behind you," he said to the Kimberleys as he left the farm. "I hope everything you plant this spring will have a good harvest when the season comes."

As they said their goodbyes to Xi, the Kimberley family's nervousness earlier in the morning was visibly gone. They looked excited as they said, "We want to visit China as soon as the harvest season is gone. We think the visit has built a good relationship already."

China Daily