What’s growing in Taiwan

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All that tasty food comes from somewhere. While in Hong Kong we heard the people say that they would try to purchase the most expensive food from Japan, followed by good quality food from Taiwan. Many tried to avoid the industrial garbage coming from China, for its notoriously not-what-you-think-it-is status.

The agriculture of Taiwan blew us away. Of anywhere in the world I have traveled, Southern Taiwan appeared to have the most diverse and advanced horticultural systems. Within one square kilometer we spotted orchards of cherimoya, guanabana, betel palm, coco palm, mountain apple, banana, mango, next to fields of onions, lettuce, choy, beans, and cover crops. In some areas the flooded paddies not only grew rice but taro and water caltrop. As I rode the train north along the west coast we gained an elevated perspective. The farmers were busy diverting the water in the fertile river beds to plant corn and other commodities. Next to the rivers, in protected vineyards, the family farms cultivated trellises of dragon fruit.

The average farm in Taiwan is only 2 ha (~5 acres). The slow food movement teaches that this correlates with diversity and economic stability. Unfortunately the industrialists of Taiwan don’t feel the same. I dug up this website full of big-farming propaganda (http://www.taiwan-agriculture.org/), stating that they need more consolidation of small farms to make more efficient agro-industry (bad idea guys).

Most of the agriculture we saw appeared to use conventional inputs (we spotted hundreds of empty bags of synthetic fertilizer on the margins of the fields). Numerous instances we saw small spray rigs, usually man-driven, working across the fields. Only in the flat paddies did we see use of cover crops on fallow land. If we could only speak Mandarin, we could provide a more complete perspective. Until the next trip I guess.

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