72 year-old farmer Nguyen Hoang Oanh has become a man famous for his ability to grow giant crops, earning the nickname “King of the Fair”.
|Mr. Oanh with his giant papaws|
From the southern province of Soc Trang, the aging farmer has won prizes for the enormous sizes of some of his fruits and vegetables.
He is even well known among foreign visitors for having grown such things as 60kg purple yam, a large cluster of bananas with 42 bunches and a 62cm papaw.
Despite his old age, Oanh, who lives in An Tan hamlet, An Lac Tay commune in Ke Sach district, is still busy thinking up ideas for new products. His peculiar ambition has grown over a period of twenty years of farming experience.
“I saw some of the impressive things at agricultural fairs. That gave me the idea to try to grow some of my own. I don’t grow these things to sell, but to show them. You don’t necessarily need a large area, but just a bit of idle space in your garden,” he says.
In 1990, he began by growing a new variety of banana to show off at agricultural trade fairs. He decided to do this after hearing about an agricultural fair in Con Tho, calling for products from local farmers.
A year later his banana trees yielded bananas which weighed nearly one kilogramme each. This helped to cement his reputation locally. “Compared to the other things I’ve grown, those special bananas were the most difficult. The trees need special attention and care,” shared Oanh.
He discovered the secret to growing giant yams quite by accident. One time, members of his family left a bunch of purple yams in an area covered with rotting coconut roots. To their surprise, new sprouts appeared. These grew into new plants that produced a 3kg purple yam, winning him second prize at the fair.
His reputation grew after he showed a single banana cluster of 42 bunches. Local fertiliser companies borrowed this cluster to advertise their products.
It was these along with his other achievements, including a single bunch of 36 coconuts, a pineapple weighing 7.5kg, which earned him the title “King of the Fair”.
Currently he’s working on 10 other varieties of special products, which he intends to show at annual fairs.
Oanh says, “It’s not true that any over-sized fruit will win a prize. There are other determining factors the judges use to choose a winner. The fruit must also be well-shaped.”
Oanh has become a successful farmer with a stable income who raised successful children.
Despite his local prestige, he does not forget his difficult past. “After we had our second child, my father gave me a boat to earn a living as a fisherman. That was a difficult time,” he says.
His wife, Nguyen Thi Hoan My, fell into the river several times, nodding off while fishing at night. His body also shows scars from diving under water for long periods of time.
When asked about what it takes to grow such impressive fruits and vegetables, he said, “I’ve learned my lessons from past failures. In order to successfully grow new or special varieties you need the correct fertilizer, which takes a lot of knowledge about the properties of each plant.”
He added that, “Some overseas Vietnamese have heard about what I’ve done via the Internet. I have even received requests for seedlings along with guidance in the ways to take care of them.”