GREENFIELD — A local business owner’s recent trip to China could lead to locally grown food being exported to Asia.
Chris Baggott, a Greenfield resident and owner of Tyner Pond Farm, recently traveled with Lt. Gov Sue Ellspermann and about 18 other Indiana agribusiness stakeholders to China as part of an agriculture trade mission.
The group met with Chinese officials and consumers to promote trade opportunities for Indiana products, including those from Tyner Pond Farm, a Greenfield-based farm that specializes in hormone-free meats and other agricultural products. The group also had the opportunity for some sight-seeing and to learn more about the Chinese culture.
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As part of the trade delegation, Baggott spent 10 days in China visiting selected cities and provinces to meet with stakeholders and tour their facilities.
There’s a vast market for Indiana agricultural products to feed the billions of people living in China, Ellspermann said in a news release.
“Our delegation will build the relationships that will lead to increased agricultural trade in the years to come,” she said.
The trip — paid for with private donations — gave delegates the opportunity to network with Chinese business owners working in the same industry.
Baggott met with representatives of the e-commerce platform, Chunbo, and got a firsthand look at farming practices.
Online platforms such as Chunbo give consumers the option to purchase food via the Web instead of at local stores, Baggott said.
During the trip, he learned most millennials in China skip the grocery store altogether, instead ordering their groceries online.
“They trust the Internet more than they trust the grocery store,” he said.
Many Chinese prefer hormone- and drug-free products, Baggott added, limiting much of the U.S. meat products from being shipped there. Currently, China gets most of its meat products from Germany and France.
China has a more advanced system of online sales and local delivery than Indiana, he said.
Indiana doesn’t currently produce enough hormone-free meat to expand into foreign markets, but the possibilities are exciting, Baggott said.
“Most of (China’s) meat is imported, so we have a good opportunity here if we just don’t put drugs in it,” he said.
Baggott said he came away from the experience with more knowledge about Chinese culture and the demand in a foreign market.
He was able to network with the Chinese and other members of the delegation. He also learned how the Chinese food system works, which gave him insight as to what the U.S. future might look like.
“In some ways, they’re a little ahead of us, so seeing the way they do things was helpful,” he said.
The trip focused mostly on business, but the delegates were also able to explore the country and try a variety of Chinese food. They visited the Great Wall of China, a panda rescue center and Tiananmen Square.
Baggott also tried a variety of foods he wouldn’t typically eat here, such as jellyfish. The taste of jellyfish wasn’t bad, he said, but he didn’t like the texture.
“(It was) like eating ear,” he said. “I only took one big bite.”
And learning about the Chinese culture was fascinating, he said. The delegation traveled with interpreters and guides, who were able to explain some key differences between American and Chinese culture, including the one-child “rule” and the way citizens handle their finances.
For decades, the Chinese government imposed a one-child policy to curb population growth. Recently, the government reviewed and changed the policy to allow families to have two children.
But Baggott learned from those he interacted with that most Chinese couples are sticking with one child.
He also learned the way families manage their money is drastically different than in the U.S. Chinese couples aim to save 50 percent of their paychecks, giving 25 percent to their parents and keeping 25 percent for themselves.
Although those traditions are much different than those in the U.S., Baggott said, he was surprised by how similar Chinese citizens are to Americans in their relationships and the ways they interact with one another.
Being invited to participate in the delegation and having a seat at the table for discussions about trade was an honor, he said.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell agreed, saying the city is proud to be home to Baggott.
“It’s very pleasing the lieutenant governor sees someone like Chris from Greenfield as a valuable person to bring on the trip,” he said.
Tyner Pond Farm works to put more money into the community and the state, and exporting products to China would give it the opportunity to do that, he said.
“We’re an agricultural state, and there’s a big customer out there that wants a specific type of product,” he said. “Why won’t we give it to them?”