Nostalgia: Brotherhood linked by Soft Rush

Four farmers are hired to plant in 200 mu* of soft rush field in Shenjiao Village, Yinzhou. Farmers from Shandong province are hired to do easy tasks such as transplanting in winter and harvesting in the summer which require a large amount of simple labor force in limited time. These four farmers are in charge of farmwork which requires masterful skills in the eight months in between the transplanting and harvesting months. The boss provides them with tools, consumables, fertilizer, pesticides, etc. Their job is to build timber piles, nylon nets, fertilize soft rush, and get rid of bugs, without taking economic risks. Within the eight months, for nearly four months, they are required to do precise and intense work everyday.

After harvesting in the summer, everyone of them gets 25,000 yuan from their boss as their salary. Since they have neither social security nor agricultural insurance, this salary is their income for the whole year. Due to the fact that four of them were nearly seventy years old and that younger people are not willing to work for such a low income, nobody plants soft rushes anymore these years.

Four of them were fertilizing in the field when I visited. They had to move back and forth countless times all on their own to finish fertilizing. The most painful task is to kill bugs, however. The sharp leaves with pesticide will penetrate their skin, resulting in ulcers. (Shenjiao Village, Yinzhou)

* 1 mu ≈ 0.1647 acre

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