Any Foreigners into Agriculture in Taiwan?


#1

just wondering. Hope I’m not alone, as i love chatting with others that live and breathe plants. I do the ESL thing too for my main line $, but this is a hearty extra.


#2

Your not alone. After 7 years being stuck in the concrete jungles of Taiwan I finally found my a 400 ping plot of land in central Taiwan where I can farm at will. Being the first year since my younger days that I had the opportunity to do some farming, my crops this year didn’t turn out so well. My corn never even broke the surface since after I planted the seeds there was zero rain for the following month. I tried to water daily, but wasn’t enough. My tomatoes were doing great, but I started noticing a small bug that looks identical to a lady bug, but brown in color so I thought they would be beneficial. Boy was I wrong. Just two days after sighting my first one, the plants and much of the surrounding weeds were completely decimated. Bummer since I was looking to freeze a lot for future sauce making, but I know better know. I’m trying to go all organic, but there were a couple, then millions so I don’t know how I would stop these little critters with out some poison. And my three cats absolutely love it here. Every morning when I wake, I am presented with a massacre. One morning I counted 16 dead rats of all sizes in my driveway, and I have to discard them before I let my dogs out or they will suck down every last one. So internal parasites for the dogs/cats has been a problem that I have yet to find a way to control.

However I did have some luck. Okra, geez, 6-months later and my plants are still putting out a ton with most going to waste. Chilies, bitter melon, and some other type of squash have also did well. My rosemary shrub is almost half the size of me now and my basil has ended up growing all over my lot. I guess due to birds spreading. So luckily I have some fresh Pesto always ready to serve.

And I also raise chickens. Right now I have 6 normal Taiwanese chickens for eggs, but I have recently started purchasing some Chabos (true Japanese Bantams). While the eggs will be to small to deal with, they are very docile and pretty little things. Just bought me a pair of solid white ones to go a long with the previous pairs I own.

My fruit trees, while still young, have put out a lot. Lemons, oranges, papaya, and guava. So many papaya that the tree fell and had to be supported and the guava is drooping heavily. So it’s been a good year, but I still want to learn more about the seasons here. The farmers around me have recently planted their new crops, but all I see are onions and soybeans which I have really no interest in. I hope to invest in a tiller the next few weeks to make my job a little easier so I can plant a larger variety, but I first need to find out more about what to grow this time of the year. I’m hoping to make it to the local A-ma store where are the local farmers start drinking Taiwan’s finest and chatting in the early AM to find out more.


#3

Your farm sounds cool. Do you have any pics?


#4

A lot of foreigners. They need a lot of bulbs in their apartment and strangely don’t like to talk about their agricultural hobby.


#5

cjc444, are you renting or did you buy the land?


#6

cjc444, your farm sounds really neat.
I’m a little jealous.


#7

I’m into agriculture but more an observer than a doer. Or should that be eater. The amount of things that can go grow fairly well in Taiwan is pretty astounding to me. From the high mountains to the coastal plains. Where my wife is from they literally grow vegetable/fruit patches with up to 20 different plants in a few square meters, in plots randomly dotted around the village. They even have rice fields IN the town. Not only there but of course all over Taiwan, it’s pretty cool.


#8

Yep, it’s a fertile place. Except oddly for the people.


#9

pingdong, cjc44, nice to know other people are doing this. I’m renting a hectare of … well, it ain’t farmland, but I have high hopes for it. This is down in Miaoli. The project got off to a rather shaky start, since the agent lied to me about the exact size and extent (a trip to the land registry cleared that up) but I’m now starting to bring it under control and hope to start planting some winter crops this month. At the moment, it’s covered in head-high undergrowth, trees, and bamboo, but it has a wonderful diversity of microclimates, terrain, and soil types. I’ve started clearing a more-accessible area of about 70m2:

What you can’t see clearly here is that the land is roughly terraced (and also has an inordinate number of ancient PaoLyTa bottles scattered around) which makes me think this area was farmed a long time ago.

This is the kind of thing I’m up against:

I’m trying to do this with the minimum disruption to the existing ecosystem. One thing I’ve noticed in Taiwan is that ‘traditional’ agriculture (clearing the land and spraying it with chemicals) works even less well than it does in the west. The topsoil just gets washed/blown away and you’re left with an infertile desert that you have to drench in chemicals to get any yield at all. Just look at the amount of biomass growing on uncleared land, and compare that with what you see in a field. So I’m trying some new methods which aim to replicate (or at least sit comfortably alongside) natural ecosystems.

Next time I go over, I expect to see most of the cut vegetation rotted down, and some new-growth weeds. I’ll probably slash these down again and use the cardboard technique to suppress regrowth and dormant seeds, maybe plant some taprooted crops directly on top; I’ve also got a bunch of stuff like sesbania, clover (several varieties), spelt, oats, beans, that should grow nicely as a green manure crop during the winter months. If that works, I’ll expand into other areas. Basically, I’m still learning how things work in a tropical climate - it’s not even remotely like growing in temperate zones. Have to figure out everything from scratch. My day job is an electronics engineer, so I’m also planning some solar installations for irrigation, traction, and whatnot.

Ultimately I’m hoping to start up a fully-organic business supplying A-class vegetables and unusual (foreign) varieties to A-class restaurants - especially things that need to be very fresh to keep their flavour. Possibly also set up half-day visits/tours for the general public (a lot of people are getting more and more interested in growing stuff these days) with tasting and food-preparation classes on-site. Whether this goes according to plan depends on whether I can make my plot do what I think it’s capable of … but in any case, it’s going to take a few years.

cjc444, +1 to the picture requests? Your place sounds great. My sister keeps chickens (hilarious ones with furry feet and heads) and I’d love to get some, just to let them run around, eat bugs, and poo. And it would be great to let the cats run around. Obviously that involves moving permanently to Miaoli, though, which I can’t do just yet.


#10

A lot of the hillsides were previously farmed around Taiwan, including Miaoli. You had whole villages living in areas that have now turned into scrub or forest. That forest is almost all second growth forest, but you can have a guess at what the original forests constituted of. This is because dotted around Miaoli and Taiwan are ancient spirit trees protected by their site at the local mini TuDi Gong temples. There is one at the riverside in the centre of Gongguan town that is 600 years old. Cedars existed right down to the plains but were completely cut out later.

It was marginal living. Many of the hillier areas would have supported tea farms, these were abandoned when tea prices collapsed. I guess they farmed other things over various times too, most obviously bamboo which is still farmed there now although the farmers have mostly moved down to live on the plains. The Japanese/KMT had a land settlement program too, my wife’s grandparents were given (or purchased cheaply?) more fertile land at the foot of the hills although they still own a mountain in the back of beyond and the relatives own parts of the surrounding hillsides (that mountain is now being illegally mined for gravel by a relative…long story). If you look at the hillsides in Miaoli you will see the TongHua tree with it’s distinctive white flowers, they were mostly planted on purpose for the oil but of course some of them are wild plants now.
Unfortunately it is hard to make a living from farming so a lot of the farmers in Miaoli are selling out to developers.

Where is the plot in Miaoli Finley? My favourite parts of Miaoli/Hsinchu is the strip of hills where the flying cow ranch (Tongxiao/Zaofeng/Xihu) is located and along the High Speed Train route, very scenic with the numerous little valleys lending a nice seclusion and surprise at every turn. Plenty of unspoilt nature left too.


#11

I thought about the possibility of aquiring land in Miaoli too. I like the area east of Sanyi. In Taiwan, it’s really important to look out for what could happen during typhoon season, mainly flooding and landslides. I think Miaoli is probably one of the safer places, it’s hilly but not mountainous. I wonder, though, whether shortage of rain could be a problem.


#12

Is that true? I recall 10 years ago it was trendy for urban dwellers to have a small plot of garden in the countryside but I thought that had lost popularity.


#13


We used to have one of those segments – that pic was taken just after the land had been cleared and prepared. Had small stuff like herbs, fancy chilis, courgettes, tomatoes, stuff like that. They were doing OK, too, until a big rain came and washed the whole fucking lot away. Haven’t been back since.


#14

Miaoli never really dries out very different than Taichung and down South. Reservoirs in Miaoli provide Taichung and Hsinchu with water. It’s also rarely hit badly by typhoons protected by the central mountains. Landslides are pretty rare one reason is that binlang farming never took off there and most of the hills have good forest cover. The Sanyi area is covered in mist half the time, the coastal area is much drier with red soil good for peanuts which are excellent by the way. There are some magical places in back of Sanyi area. Depends where the land is really.


#15

Try 三芝 which is northeast of 淡水 (Danshui). Plenty of agri-land and there are For Sale signs everywhere. Lotsa organic farming there as well.

And you don’t have to worry about typhoon because the area is shield by both Yang Ming and Da Tung (大屯) mountains.


#16

[quote=“PigBloodCake”]Try 三芝 which is northeast of 淡水 (Danshui). Plenty of agri-land and there are For Sale signs everywhere. Lotsa organic farming there as well.

And you don’t have to worry about typhoon because the area is shield by both Yang Ming and Da Tung (大屯) mountains.[/quote]

Here’s an URL with “Bee Farm”: 3g.tpcgo.org.tw/web/Topic?mapID=11884

Unfortunately this website doesn’t come in English but then it might be a good thing come to think of it (hidden treasure).


#17

HH, thanks for the background info. It’s actually just south of XinZhu, near TouFen, so I can drive there in about 40mins (scooter) from XinZhu HSR, which is really convenient. The flying cow place is a long way away from me.

You’re right about the water - my observation is that there are only two months (June/July) when it really starts to get a bit dessicated. The rest of the year the ground is still holding water, at least if you’ve got adequate ground cover.

I looked into this because I live in Danshui … but it seems most of those plots are being sold at residential prices because (according to the agents) the government will rezone them eventually as residential land; in fact, most of the plots are actually big enough that you can build a “farm building” (ie., a pig-ugly villa) without needing to get the land rezoned. If you were buying to farm, you’d never make any profit at those prices.

weeeell … I think they like the idea of it, but actually doing it is maybe a step too far. They’re certainly getting more conscious of, and more genuinely knowledgeable about environmental issues. Lots of people I’ve spoken to are very enthusiastic about what I’m doing and want to come visit, have a look, spend a day hanging out - but I doubt they’d like the backbreaking hard work involved (can you imagine a lily-white Taiwanese woman trying to hold a spade in one hand and an umbrella in the other?). So my theory is, people would probably pay to come visit and be told about how it’s done, and how it’s all organic and good for the planet. They can then go home to their disposable chopsticks and gas-guzzlers and feel good about themselves.

This kind of project drives me nuts - it’s obviously been designed by some university kid who’s never grown anything in his life. In a monsoon climate, you need thick, heavy ground cover - roots holding the earth together - or, predictably, anything on a slope does get washed away. Even that may not be enough; you might need to use other methods - such as shrubbery to act as windbreaks and additional mechanical reinforcement, terracing, and swales to redirect water. In countries where the rain isn’t so fierce, you can still lose your topsoil pretty quickly if it’s exposed like that. Nature doesn’t like being corralled into pretty little shapes.


#18

This is an aspect of local farming that I find interesting and endearing. My in-laws are the same. They don’t have much land but they grow guavas, pineapples, bananas, longans, bamboo, sweet potatoes, spring onions and other vegetables. They don’t currently, but in the past they’ve kept chickens and goats.


#19

I would look for something like that. Small patch of flat land. Nice surroundings. Old building that looks usable. Not too expensive. Of course, maybe the land is contaminated, the house is haunted, and there is a pig farm right next door, but from what I can see on the pics, I’d check it out.

xn–kpry7eqb052n.tw/pro/view … D=897&ct=1


#20

finley, great looking land. For what its worth i strongly suggest leaving the trees, at least for a while. prune them for light, but keep them alive. on hills/slopes even if mudslides are not a worry you can get very bad channeling when it rains. even with the trees. once you take out the ground cover, your land is fair game to the elements, and taiwan rain makes a mess.

But the land does look FANTASTIC! im so gblad there are otehrs doing this as well.

The mountains are different but the soil on the western flats is really shitty. it grows things but it is over worked and not so fertile. hense the sue of so many chemicals here. our land we have been building up over 2 years now and we changed our dirt from almost clay anaerobic garbage to now digable brown and filled with organic matter. the surface has inches of black compost on top, all natural from weeds.

not sure what everyone elses methods are but weeds here are impossible to beat. we have 2 fen (i dont know how many ping in a fen…?) and if it gets plowed the next month it is solid green 1 meter tall in weeds. month 2 its 2 meters tall where it is kind of maxed out. we also are organic, we dont spray anything or use any fertilizers. so we have bit the bullet and used black fabric (not plastic sheet, the woven fabric…stands up in sun). here is is about $150 NT per foot wide by 100 feet long on a roll. i buy 6’ wide so its $900 to cover 6’x100’. its expensive to cover a farm, but unless you spray or have full time weed pullers, there is little else you can do.

me personally i am switching from farm to “food forest”. tropical food forest is very attractive to me, so thats what i am starting to build up now :slight_smile:

This is why i like Taiwan, and actually much of Asia, is they can be so chemical dependent on plants and animal food production, then across the road you can have ma and pa growing 100 species on their 100x100 foot piece of land. the agriculture in Taiwan is so unique that way, i love it. our neighbors do this as well. they have 1-2 trees of various fruit species and lots of vegetables and such. it makes so much mor esense than having a lawn or in taiwan a concrete pad.

that mountain side land in the pic above really got me thinking, at night that place must be fantastic with fireflies, frogs etc! I always do my farming at night cause i cant handle the heat here. And 3 nights ago it had rained all day then cleared up and humid as anything. so super foggy and stars above. i sat there for about 2 hours doing nothing but watching bats and fireflies and listening to crickets/frogs go at it with no sound of humans around. So peaceful, and right by the town. it was a good night, despite getting almost nothing accomplished on the land.

here are some pics of our farm. note the plastic is spaced and the trenches for water uncovered…big mistake. i am no going back and redoing it all. if you use plastic, no cracks. solid and cut holes for plants. a 1x1cm crack can make the weeds easily spread 50+ feet in a month. this has caused me 100s of hours of work i didnt need to do if i did it right from the start.

at the start