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Taiwan: Organic farming in Taiwan

In Taiwan, more and more farmers adopt organic farming methods, from rice to vegetables, from fruits to roses, and from tea to coffee. These farmers use blogs to support each other and sell their products.

“Organic” is not as easy as it looks. One farmer told the story of their organic rose farm:

首先,土地必需休耕三年以上,栽種時不使用任何農藥及化學肥料,並以天然有機質及有機堆肥滋養土壤…必須定時調配辣椒水,適時驅趕這些「客人」;為了不使用除草劑,只好拿起鐮刀,一株一株地割除,用勞力及時間換取玫瑰生長的空間。

First, we left the land fallow for more than three years. When we plant the roses, we cannot use any pesticide or chemical fertilizer. We need to fertilize the soil with natural ingredients…(we) need to make hot pepper water regularly and use it to expel the “guests” (spiders and caterpillars)…Because no pesticide is used, (we) need to use sickle to cut the weeds one stem after another. It takes labor and time to earn a space for these roses to grow.

If the rose farmers give up these efforts,

成群結隊的蚜蟲、毛毛蟲、蜘蛛等,攀附在玫瑰花上愉悅地享受大餐;宛若流寇的雜草大軍,淹沒了寶貴的玫瑰花田;讓人無力抵擋的白粉病及黑點病,一點一點占據玫瑰葉片…。

there will be throngs of aphids, caterpillars, spiders, and etc. They will have their supper on roses happily. There will be troupes of weeds submerging the precious rose farm. The leaves of roses will be occupied inevitably by powdery mildew and melanose.

http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/rice.jpg
Photo courtesy of justeating

There are many other organic farming methods. For example, growing rice with ducks. One of the farmers adopting this method explained:

鴨子的工作量有限。平均來說,通常一分地大小的稻田需要放養二十隻鴨子,才能夠有效的去除雜草與害蟲…插秧七天後,就要自宜蘭買回剛孵出的鴨子,養十天再放入 田中適應環境,然後依著作息讓鴨子工作,白晝放養,昏夜圈養。插秧約八十天後,稻子開始抽穗時,趕緊將鴨子趕回水塘圈養,強制鴨子退休,不能再下田啦!

The workload of a duck is limited. For a farm as large as 0.1 hectare, the farmers need 20 ducks to get rid of weeds and pests efficiently…Seven days after transplanting rice seedlings, we need to buy just-hatching ducks from Yilan County. After raising the ducks for ten days, we put them in the farms and let them familiarize themselves with the environment. When ducks “work,” their schedule is based on their habits: walking and eating in the farm during the daytime and going back after dark. About 80 days after transplanting rice seedlings, when the ear of rice is growing, we bring the ducks back to the pond and raise them there. The ducks are forced to retire and cannot work in the farm anymore.

Although the material rewards may not pay for the farmers’ efforts, they try to keep their spirits high. Green-Mom talked about the snails in their farms,

越乾淨的土地 , 就有越多的蝸牛 ~說到蝸牛 ~ 真的讓人恨的牙癢癢 , 前一天才種下的菜苗 , 隔天早上通通不見蹤影 …媽媽拿著手電筒道菜園查看 ~終於找到兇手 ~ 就是他 …..蝸牛

記得 ~ 以前只要下雨天 , 姐弟就會拿著籃子撿蝸牛去 ~ 回來一陣敲敲打打 ~ 再用木頭灰燼又搓又洗 ~ 晚餐就有炒蝸牛可吃。現在要吃炒野生蝸牛少之又少 , 如果有也貴的嚇人。乾脆通通抓起來 , 養他一陣子就有炒蝸牛可以吃。嗯 ! 這主意好像還不錯 ~

The healthier a land is, more snails there are. Talking about snails, they are so hatable. The vegetable seedlings planted today disappear tomorrow…Mom checked the farm with a flashlight in the evening, and she found the murderer—it is him, the snail.

I remember that several years ago, my brother and I would bring a basket to the farm to pick up snails in rainy days. After knocking and washing them with wood ashes, we would have fried snails as dinner. It is hard to find fried wild-caught snails nowadays. If you find one, it is very expensive. I propose that we pick these snails up and raise them for a few days, and then we will have fried snails. Hmmm, I think this is a good idea.

Another farmer talked about voles in their sweet potato farm with humor,

就怕田鼠囂張,不待我們挖起便啃得蕃薯體無完膚。待可以讓好友們來蕃薯田玩時,還請大家與我們一起來參加「打地鼠」的遊戲,把這些肥滋滋的田鼠扭送法辦吧。

We are afraid that these voles are too audacious to eat the sweet potatoes before harvest. When it is allowed to invite our friends to the sweet potato farm, I pledge you to join the “catching-voles” game and bring these fat voles to justice.

There is always a story behind an organic farm. In 1999, there was an earthquake in Taiwan, measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. Many people in ChungLiao, one of the devastated areas due to the earthquake, have been working together to revive the community. They set up “Befarmer” in 2003, which provides organic fruits.

Due to the same earthquake, FriendshipCITW started to work with aboriginal people in Taichung Daan River (L’liung penux in Atayal) area to set up a co-op kitchen and sell organic agriculture products.

Many organic farmers in Taiwan have difficulty to sell their products. Some of them hold a market and sell their products together. They also hold lectures for learning together. Hopemarket is one of these organizations, in which there is a special connection between the farmers and their consumers. youngsing said,

在合樸市集所結識的消費者,也常會來電鼓勵打氣…希望消費者與我們不單只是買與賣的商業行為,也可以吃到我們用心的產品,進而可以分享我們製作的過程和品嘗後的意見。這是我們最期待的。

The consumers we meet in the Hopemarket call us to cheer us up frequently…I hope the interaction between consumers and us is not only buying and selling. I hope the consumers can eat the food we prepare cordially. Furthermore, I hope that we can share the process of preparation with them and they can share their comments with us after eating. This is what we want most.

When choosing organic farming methods, some farmers focus on preserving native species and creating values for these native species. For example, the native guava, which has very rich flavor but is small and not sweet enough for nowadays consumers. Although the native guava is not popular on fresh-fruit market, with some imagination, it was found to be an important ingredient for making charming desserts.

http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/guavacake.jpg
Photo courtesy of justeating

Sometimes, growing these native species needs not only imagination but also experience. For example, a farmer claimed that finding the winter bamboo shoots in his mountains is as difficult as finding truffe in France. The difference is, French people use pigs to find the truffe, and Taiwanese farmers find the winter bamboo shoots by their own experience. One experienced farmer said,

沒經驗的人想找到冬筍可不容易。…產冬筍的孟宗竹不會聚在一起,每根竹子間的距離較大,生長竹筍的地下莖走向沒有一定規則,有時筍子會出現在距離母竹很遠的地方;如果當季缺水,就算翻遍山頭也找不到一根筍子。

It is not easy for a naive person to find the winter bamboo shoots…These Moso bamboos do not grow together. The interval between them is large. Their underground stems grow irregularly. Sometimes the shoots appear in some place far away from their mother. If we do not have enough water in this season, we will not find any shoot in a mountain.

http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/bamboo.jpg
Photo courtesy of justeating

At the end of the day, organic farming methods not only change how the farmers work but also change how the farmers view their work. sioong said,

曾經以為,農夫的工作就是種稻,現在才慢慢體會,農夫在不知不覺中種下的,是自己的心。…我們是最瞭解她的人,因為我們的心跟這片土地的距離,最近。

I used to think that farmers’ job is to grow rice. Now I realize that what we have planted without notice is our heart…We are the one who know the land best, because the distance between our heart and her is shortest.
  • http://johmyn@gmail.com mynalee johnstone

    What a wonderful post.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I live in Canada on Salt Spring Island and will share this with the many organic growers here.

  • ifan

    Thanks, mynalee.

    I believe internet is a powerful tool to connect organic growers and their customers. On the other hand, “knowledge” about our earth is very important for organic growers, and through internet, we can share this knowledge and improve our methods.

    Best wishes,
    I-Fan

  • http://www.hopemarket.com.tw MengKai

    Hi, I am MengKai from HopeMarket. I would like to have your article posted to HopeMarket’s blog to share with more friends to provide a different view…

  • ifan

    Hi MengKai,

    Thank you for your message. You are welcome to share this article with your friends.

    I-Fan

  • Pingback: 合樸農學市集 » Organic farming in Taiwan

  • Nurbu

    Hello Organic Tem? I Fan

    HAPPY NEW YEAR

    I am so greatful to see on the internet that Organic movement in Taiwan is growing.

    I work in organic farm in Nepal and I would love to work in Taiwan but i don’t know where and how to get in.

    I would love to exchang my exprence would it be possible to get connetion to this organic farm could you please tell me.
    I live in Hsinchu,Taiwan I would be very happy to do it. Thank you.
    Warm greetings

    Nurbu

  • ifan

    Hi Nurbu,

    Nice to hear from you.

    I believe you can contact people in the Hope market. They left a message above yours: http://www.hopemarket.com.tw/?p=6004

    Best wishes,
    I-Fan

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