Organic Formosa

Taiwanese Happy Life

Useful links

For those of you who think my blog doesn’t have enough information or just want to know more about organic farming in  Taiwan, you can have a look at these links:

My blog on the National Youth Comission website

WWOOF Taiwan

One Town One Product

Ministry of Agriculture – organic routes

HomeStay in Taiwan

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Let’s be friends!

It’s been some time since I got back from Taiwan and it now seems like a dream that happened long time ago. Memory selects what must be kept in our mind and what must be moved to trash. If I think of Taiwan, the first thing that comes to my mind is the helpfulness of the Taiwanese, especially of the NYC, towards foreigners, or at least towards me.  Now I understand  the NYC‘s moto: “Let’s Be Friends!”.

Here are all those friends came my way in Taiwan. This goes for you all!!

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Ahui’s Farm

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Ahui’s Farm is at the end of the blue line of the MRT (Tucheng). A just 10 minutes walk from the station will take you to an area that looks more like the countryside than the outskirts of a big city.

Here is where Ahui has his organic farm. Fed up with a corporate job, 5 years ago he decided to change drastically his life  and start a much rewarding life. This used to belong to his father, who would use pesticides and chemicals. When he inherited, and because of a conflict with the authorities, he decided tu turn this farm into an organic farm. The first year, the production was almost nonexistent but, as soon as the soil became stronger and more fertile, production has increased.

He also supports the idea of Community-Supported Agriculture, and that’s why the customer has to come all the way to the farm to buy its products. He refuses to sell his products in supermarkets as, he says, it’s a waste of waste, forgive the repetition.

In the last years, he has learnt to keep both the soil and the costumer happy by compromising both of them. Whatever is available, he’ll sell, and that depends on the lunar calendar he follows to plant its crops. If some gets spoilt because of some bugs, he’ll use it to make compost, which will help him to make the soil more fertile.

Many people came here to grab their weekly vegetables and some fresh air not available downtown. He doesn’t speak English but, if you are as lucky as I was and have a local friend, you’ll apprehend a lot of his knowledge when visiting him. He also accepts volunteer from any nationality (I was the first Spaniard to visit the farm) to help him out and, as anc exchange, he provides them with organic vegetables. A really good plan for a sunny Sunday!

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The beginning of the East Coast

Danshui is where on the treasure of Taiwan starts: east coast. It’s also where Spaniards settled for about 10 years and built San Francisco Fort. It was later demolished when they left and built again by the Dutch. This place hosted as well the British Consulate until the diplomatic relationships between both countries worsened (UK acknowledged PRC instead of ROC). Nonetheless, the place has been very well preserved and one can grasp an idea of how Victorian time was, even if it’s Taiwan, and how life of the British Consul was, as it doesn’t have anything that recalls Dutch or Spanish time.

Driving ahead of Danshui, different beaches arrive on your way. Nothing to do with white sand and postcard beaches, but still they have their own charm. There are many cafés and restaurants along the coast to have sea food while observing the the sea, something that I really enjoy doing. What’s most surprising is that water is warm, even if it’s ocean water.

One more advice: forget about public transport and rent a scooter. You’ll feel the ocean breeze splashing on your face.

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Earth Day in Taipei

Earth Day in Taipei has been happening for 5 years. The event becomes a hub of local farmers, social entrepeneurs, environmental NGO’s, eco-friendly designers and people, like me, interested interested in all of the latter.

Here one could find organic jams, fruit ice lolly, sprouts, cotton T-shirt, tea, DIY pot-free plants, eco creative handicrafts, but also organizations that have revolutionized the relationship between farmers and cosumers towards agriculture. One of this organizations is Hope Market, which organizes workshops on organic farming and tofu making, but also has implmented this new  concept  community-supported agriculture of  amongst sereval farmers and consumers in the south of the island. It’s a locally-based socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution that strengthes the relationship between these two actors, as it’s based on trust. The system is as follows

-both farmers and consumers share the risk of the crops that are grown seasonally, which motivates consumers to take care of the crops that will become their food;

-price is demoratocally decided, yet all member usually pay a monthly fee to sustain the structure;

-transparency towards the community (methods used for farming)

This has worked out in many places around the world and Hope Market introduced it in Taiwan as well. How much one can learn at the Earth Day!

After a long while at the event, I went to the nearby Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. His story, of course, was not inspiring at all, yet the place is very impressive.

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Fushousham Farm

This former veterans’ getaway and Chiang Kai-Shek’s villa is currently one of the highest organic farms in Taiwan. Located between 1,800m to 2,500m above the sea level, it is able to produce high quality tea (the higher the mountain, the higher the price), as well as apples in many varieties, pears, peaches and plums.

Fushoushan farm, however, is much more organized than the others one I’ve seen and less eager to let nature lovers get involved in the care taking of the farm Even that, many people come all the way up here to see the beautiful landscape the farm offers. If you’re as lucky as I’m and come in April, you’ll see all the apple trees blooming.

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From Toucheng Farm to Fushousham Farm

The sunny weather invited me to stay longer at Toucheng, yet my tight agenda forced me to leave.  I took the train to Ilan (30min, NTD 32). Once there, I walked about 200m towards Ilan Transfer Station, from where I took the bus towards Fushousham Farm. It leaves at 7 am and 12.40 pm (NTD 365) and goes by Wuling Farm and Lishan.

So the bus arrived, everybody went in and took its sear. A young guy, whose English was quite good, helped me communicate with the driver and made sure I’d reach my destination. He seemed pretty surprised to see a foreigner in that bus on a random Tuesday. I think we has so curious about me, that he couldn’t help it and  asked me if he could sit next to me. Having my prejudices, as everybody has, I thought: “oh, no, mow I’ll have to talk and be nice for 5 hours (the length of the journey)”. The guy, who’s posted in Lishan for one year because of his military service, asked those question everybody does when meeting somebody for the first time. After some time, the conversation got over. He pulled out his laptop from his rucksack, turned it on and watched a movie. That’s the kind of passengers I like to sit next to.

Along the journey, I could see how we were ascending mountains, which, together with the curves of the road, made me feel a little bit sick. Finally, I reached there by 5 and checked in (NTD 500 with the Youth Card). It was getting dark, but I still went to have a walk around the farm.

It’s incredible how wonderful the farm is. I didn’t expect it like this at all, yet the most surprising this were the maples trees. It felt like fall time in Canada. 

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After dinner (NTD 250 for vegetarian option), I was so tired that I just went to sleep.

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Toucheng Farm

This place should be called Toucheng Family Farm, because it’s run by a family and targeted to families. Located in Toucheng, it is a gateaway for those staying in Taipei. It takes only 30 minutes from Taipei Main Station  to Toucheng (NTD 184). and from there 15min by taxi (NTD 220) up to the farm. Even if its usually atmosphere is the one I would run away from, as it gets really crowded at the weekend, I’ve done the right thing: coming on a Monday. The place, which can accomodate up to 500 people at a time, was almost empty, so I had the whole farm and staff for me.

As soon as I checked in, I took and umbrella and went a walk under the drizzly and misty weather. The rainforest matched perfectly with the meteorologic conditions, yet my canvas didn´t. One can be eco-friendly, but mud can’t be canvas-friendly, right? Even that, I did the whole route around the farm . This took me to see the vegetable garden, free-range animals, a tea place, rice fields and bit of the higher part where they have fruit trees.

After the walk, I had dinner (vegetarian option for NTD 150) and chatted with the manager, who told me a bit more about the farm. Founded 20 years ago, it is one of the pioneering farms in terms of organic farming in Taiwan. It counts with the support, and sometimes criticism, of the Agricultural  Council. Even if the farms has its organic certiffication only for its bamboo trees, they farm organically all crops. And how do they avoid bugs and infections in the crops? By planting the ones that have strong smell, such as aromatic plants, chillis, etc. If this doesn’t work, , following the advice of the council, they have put plastic pots filled with natural horomones. These attract  insects and prevents them from going to the crops. However, their production is not enough, so they have to buy vegetables from local farmers, creating in turn an organic network in the area, as they only buy organic vegetables.

AS for the waste the place creates everyday, they recycle as much as they can. They feed animals with suitable leftovers of the food. The leftpvers of the leftovers are used to make compost, which is consumed by their plants. To use less electricity, they have a combined system made up of solar panels and electrocity that keeps the water hot using the least electricity.

Because of its extension and expertise, the farm receives every year international students who do the practical period of their degree. It’s also a moment to exchange ideas on organic farming. Have a look at their blog.

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Simple Market

It’s simply the coolest market in Taipei. It’s a combination of organic food brought and sold by farmers, creative handicrafts made by young Taiwanese and spontaneous gigs done by underground artists at, what used be, a village given to veterans by the government. Do you need anything else?


At this market you can find the trendiest accessories, as well as organic nouvelle cuisine products surrounded by two contrasted backgrounds: small cemented houses and the former highest building in the world, Taipei 101.

 

 

 

You can hang  here on Sundays from 13h to 19h, yet the coffee shop located inside  of the building, Good Cho’s, is open everyday and claims to have the best bagels in town. Moreover, some of the products sold at the stalls can also be found at this shop, like Red on Tree jams, Muchorganic teas and some other orgasmic goodies.


The location becomes even cooler when you leave the market and find a small farm in the middle of the city. I wonder how has the owner of this land managed to keep it as a farm. If only it were organic…

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248 Market


Visiting the National Palace Museum in couple of hours is impossible, even if you only want to see 0.1% of its collection. We went there with the idea of spending only 1h, but it end up being 3h. This delayed our super organized schedule, and so, we missed 248 Farmers market. Even that, we went to its location thinking we might catch some farmer, yet all of them had already left when we reached. As there’s always a good side in everything, we found a really cool store just below the ground where the market takes place. Sofr3sh  are the ones who started 248 Market as an initiative to help farmers to establish a network with buyers and, therefore, be able to distribute their products.  Farmers have to pay a symbolic fee, NTD 1, per day and stall.


Sofr3sh are also the first ones to have hydroponic crops in Taiwan. This idea came out long ago, even though in the recent years is in the Netherlands where it’s most developed. The whole point of this system is to grow vegetables where the soil is not fertile. This system uses less water  per se than regular farming because it needs less water, as well as because this water can be reused many times. Pesticides are not needed since containers are mobile and, therefore, plagues are easily taken rid of. Nevertheless, to help the plant grow, it needs nutrients that required a lot of energy and non-stop direct light, which means high electricity consumption.



Its system is as follows: plant the seed in a sponge, put this sponge inside a flat surface with water and natural nutrients, and under direct light. Within 50 days, you’ll have spinach, cauliflower, basil, mint and any kind of leave you want to grow ready to eat. They say it’s not organic, and so it’s for me, as there’s not soiled involved in the whole process, but it’s bacteria- and pesticide-free. To them, it’s the solution to climate change; to me, it’s just a plaster that doesn’t heal the problem, but it covers it. It looks more like the farm of a futuristic movie, rather than an eco-friendly one, doesn’t it?


Being a country with huge electricity and water supply shortage, India would be a nightmare for those willing to implement this idea there. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s already in use in India. One way or the other, I prefer aquaponics to hydroponics, as the first one doesn’t need electricity and it actually feeds both plants and fishes. Would this be considered organic, even if fishes are locked in a small space? Being coherent wiht nature and our society is tough.

Nonetheless, they gave me a sample of their products and I must say it was deliciously crunchy and tasteful. It’s worth trying it.


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