Mr. Nguyen Van Hien owns vast lime fields, making export products as competitive as foreign brands, but not just about limes.

While doing well with construction, Mr. Nguyen Van Hien suddenly turned to work as a farmer. When asked, he laughed: “Fate gave me a push, but at first I bought land and planted limes just because I missed my hometown. Therefore, I did it for fun, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal.” Remembering his hometown makes a career like Mr. Hien, everyone wants to be remembered every second.

“Simply because I love learning”

“I come from Que Trung commune, Nong Son district, Quang Nam province” – Hien said. “I’m also in the Central region”. So two strangers suddenly met each other in the South. The story begins with the memories of Hien’s hometown from the rice with cassava to the fishy taste of fish paste dipping in tomato. “I was so poor that once I had appendicitis, and had to have emergency surgery but my family had no money, so my parents had to beg around the hospital for treatment.”

Mr. Hien said that in those years, like many other poor people in the Central region, Hien was raised by his parents with only one desire that is studying a lot and well to have the opportunity to escape and go to the city to make a career. Hien thinks too! Therefore, instead of studying at a university in Da Nang or Hue close to home, Hien chose to enter a university in Ho Chi Minh City and study electricity at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology. “Get in the car going to Ho Chi Minh City to study, I only have 500,000 dongs”. Then Hien graduated from university after 4 years of learning while taking advantage of doing all kinds of jobs as long as he had legitimate money to support himself.

“Those were very difficult years. It was even more difficult when there were 4 brothers in the family who went to Ho Chi Minh City to go to university that way. On the day my father passed away, my brother and I returned to Quang Nam by coach. We got off the car because we ran out of money and had to walk more than 30 km to get to the house when the family had buried my father “- Mr. Hien’s voice slackened.

Although the family is poor, Mr. Hien is still passionate about studying. I asked to learn so much for what? Hien said succinctly: “Simply because I love learning”.

After finishing graduation, Mr. Hien was fortunate to be accepted to work as a errand boy in a unit. He said: “Fortunately,when I applied for a job, people received immediately, not relied on anyone, did not have to pay any bribes”. But Hien also only worked for 5 years because he saw no development opportunities there.

Mr. Hien quitted his job and set up a business with his friends in the construction field. When he had a bit of food to eat, Mr. Hien suddenly “became” missing his hometown. He and a few friends wandered to Ben Luc (Long An province) to buy a plot of land along the road. The land is still very wild about 20 hectares wide.

“At that time, I just thought I was buying to save, in the future I will build a farm with a pond and a cage so that my friends can gather at the weekend, therefore  I don’t miss my hometown. Partly because the construction profession has to deal with the works,and I always cares the bread and butter, I need a place to relax. But after buying and leaving the land, we felt that it wastes, so we decided to do something.” At first, Mr. Hien planned to grow dragon fruit but stopped because of the large investment. I asked the local people for some more plants but still finding no success, especially the output is not stable, always in a state of waiting for “rescue”.

Mr. Nguyen Van Hien's 150 hectares lime farm
Mr. Nguyen Van Hien’s 150 hectares lime farm

After pondering for a long time, Mr. Hien finally decided to go to universities in the West and go to Nong Lam University in Ho Chi Minh City to “learn” experts to find a new method which is better than the way of the majority of farmers.

“Farmers have tried many varieties of plants but have not been successful, so they sold their land to work as workers to support their daily living. Now I do their failed methods again and I will also fail, while I have more knowledge than them, so there must be a better way to do it,” said Mr. Hien

Mr. Nguyen Van Hien's 150 hectares lime farm
Mr. Nguyen Van Hien’s 150 hectares lime farm

“Destiny with  luck”

Mr. Hien repeated to me this phrase many times when he talked about meeting Hero of Labor – Prof. Dr. Vo Tong Xuan and many other leading experts in agriculture. “They advised us to grow limes organically in association with the export market to increase value. I think it makes sense to listen to them and from the beginning, we follow the European production process to compete with foreign brands, not with domestic farmers.”

From a wild land that was intended to be a farm to reducing his miss of hometown, after more than 7 years, Hien had a eye-catching lime field which is more than 150 hectares. Chanh Viet Long An Trading and Investment Joint Stock Company with products branded CHAVI was born from that.

Mr. Nguyen Van Hien
Mr. Nguyen Van Hien

The day he took me to visit the lime field, Mr. Hien said: “Even now, sometimes I still can’t believe my eyes because this was originally a field with no wilderness, no electricity, no water, no street. In the broken- ground days, we had to drag each other back to Ho Chi Minh City every evening because we couldn’t stand mosquitoes and countless insects.”

In order to grow limes,  firstly, Hien invested more than 3 billion dongs to pull the 3-phase power line and built more than 2 km of concrete roads.

At that time, , Mr. Hien did a very meaningful work that is pulling electricity and building roads for local people. “The day the electricity came back, we were happy, the  local people were very happy because if anyone had a need, I would install a clock and use it for production. In particular, thanks to electricity, people here can make well pumps to get domestic water instead of stored rainwater and water form ponds. Then the original concrete road was also the basis for the state to make a road for cars to be able to enter the alley as you can see now,” said Mr. Hien

But growing limes is not just about pulling electricity and building roads. So a preliminary automatic irrigation system for 150 hectares also costs Hien about more 7 billion dongs. I was really shocked when I heard that Mr. Hien calculated from the money for land reclamation, electric power system, water, cold storage, processing plants, etc., the total investment of Chanh Viet Long An Trading and Investment Joint Stock Company up to this point has been reached 7 million USD but there is no sign of stopping because in the near future, there are many new works that need to be invested more.

“Should give up the small business model. Farming is now the work of the rich, it takes real investment to be successful,” an agriculture expert at Can Tho University summed up when talking to me about agricultural production. But I didn’t believe it until I met Mr. Nguyen Van Hien and witnessed his horizonless lime field.