The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing had all eyes on China, but in November 2007, Andy, Pat, Don and Joe Wyss from Ft. Wayne, Ind., traveled more than 7,000 miles to experience China's agricultural industry firsthand.
Their trip stemmed from a relationship with a Chinese professor, Penghui Dou, who had a visiting professorship at Purdue University. When the professor extended an offer for the family to take part in the China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair (CAF), the opportunity further ignited their curiosity about the rising global giant.
"We looked at it as an opportunity as any entrepreneurial family would,” Don says. "I took a lot of interest in this trip because I do a lot of the marketing for our farm. I was curious to see how advanced the Chinese were with their agricultural practices.”
Don's brother, Joe, says the appeal of a trip like this was irresistible.
"It's hard to not be interested in what's going on in that part of the world,” he says. "There are so many people surrounded by so much growth that their collective influence is felt throughout the world markets.”
The Wyss family compare CAF, which attracts visitors from 26 countries, to a major farm show in the U.S. The event includes machinery and product displays and educational activities, but the seminars and presentations are front and center.
The family presented information about the history of U.S. agriculture and Wyss Farms Enterprises' management practices. Questions from the Chinese centered on farm size and how the family can manage more than 2,000 acres without a larger labor force.
This particular issue came into perspective as they walked through the machinery show. "The interesting part was the small-scale equipment,” Joe says. "The thing getting the most attention was a motorized corn sheller. Another machine creating conversation was a large motor on wheels that could hook up and pull a small trailer.”
Despite differences, the family found commonalities with the Chinese people. "They are one of our biggest competitors in some aspects and in others our biggest customers,” Andy says.
In November 2007, (left to right) Joe, Andy, Pat and Don Wyss attended the China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair through an invitation extended by professor Penghui Dou and her husband (also pictured).     Photo: Wyss Family