Farm tour experience
The hard work paid off, with the agritourism industry contributing NT$7.28 billion to the country’s economy in 2011. More than 14 million visits were made to leisure farms that year, according to COA statistics.
Currently, there are 467 registered leisure farms in Taiwan. The number is expected to be much larger because owners running small-scale agritourism would most likely not apply for a license.
“Such farms are springing up like mushrooms nowadays,” said Peter Lin (林文攀), founder of Topology Travel (拓璞行銷), a travel company that caters to foreign tourists who like exploring sites other than Taipei 101 and the National Palace Museum.
Seeing a surging market demand, Peter Lin said his company is planning to include farm experience tour series into its service.
As agritourism continues to prosper, however, some cautiously warned the negative effects of over-developed tourism, especially on the environment and culture.
Agritourism is more sophisticated than revamping buildings and getting more businesses, said Perng Ming-hwei (彭明輝), a retired professor from National Tsing Hua University, in an article published a few years ago.
Citing a government-led project that erected a fancy European-style structure in a rural village in Hsinchu County, Perng said such an undertaking is doing more harm than good because it not only damages the picturesque scenery, but gradually erases the region’s unique culture and history.
A farmer in Taoyuan County agreed with Perng.
“You have to put your heart into it,” said Lo Chi-kuang (羅吉光), a 73-year-old tangerine farmer who avoids industrial materials so as to make his plantation more attractive to city-dwellers and tourists.
Instead of using cement to build concrete steps, for example, he moved stones up from streams and rearranged them by size. Bamboo sticks are gathered to make organic rooftops. Recycled wood parts are turned into vintage road signs.
“I want to avoid artificial elements and keep the place as natural as possible,” he said as he drank from a bamboo mug.
“Agritourism is not just about making farms beautiful; it’s also about making lives on farms more sustainable.”