Ma Shiliang, a village doctor whose family was among some 7,000 Hui Muslims whom the Chinese government had brought to this place from their water-scarce lands in the country’s northwest, said officials promised “we would get rich”. China calls them “ecological migrants”: 329,000 people whom the government had relocated from lands distressed by climate change, industrialisation, poor policies and human activity to 161 hastily built villages. They were the fifth wave in an environmental and poverty alleviation programme that has resettled 1,140,000 residents of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a territory of dunes and mosques and camels along the ancient Silk Road. Ma told me over tea in his living room that each household had to pay a $2,100 (Dh7,713) “resettlement fee” and was promised a plot of land to farm as the families left behind plentiful fields and animals. But those who received plots ended up having to lease them to an agriculture company, and were left with tiny front yards, where the Mas grow a few chilli plants. Three of Ma’s brothers and a nephew brought a total of 38 family members as part.
Interviews with most executives – even at ag companies – follow a similar pattern. A thorough journalist asks inquisitive questions about the company and the executive, hoping to uncover answers that highlight the subject’s vision and the company’s focus and how it ultimately affects farmers. Executives provide well-thought out, most likely practiced, answers that positively reflect upon the company. Responses are rarely personal unless they show the subject’s respectable character and dedication to improving the life of American farmers. That is not what it’s like to interview Maurice Taylor. Taylor, who goes by Morry, has been at the helm of Titan International since 1990, first as president and CEO and now as CEO and chairman of the board. Despite his long tenure as an executive, Taylor has been unaffected by the training that polishes most CEOs. While some of his responses to this interview weren’t necessarily elegant, they also weren’t calculated. For example, these were a few of the random comments Taylor made during the interview with Successful Farming: the French drink too much bad wine, California should.