Rebuilding a community
Responding to the help from Wu, Patal also encouraged Talampo farmers to organize their malabaliw, a traditional labor-exchange system, for all work such as weeding, fertilizing and harvesting Talampo’s 24 hectares of land.
They have also returned to a semi-traditional lifestyle during the weeding period that would be eminently understandable by their ancestors.
“We like the feeling of working together, singing, and joking with our neighbors. It is not just about cultivating the daylily,” Kacaw says. “It’s also a time when men flirt with women, elders pass on their knowledge of wild vegetables to the younger generation and men share their hunting stories.”
“We feel like a real community again,” Kacaw says.
In 2008 the Hualien Farmer’s Association invited the Institute of Marketecology (IMO), a Swiss organic certification agency, to certify their rice production. Wu convinced the IMO agent to stay an extra day in Talampo to see if their daylily operation could be certified organic. Surprisingly, the rice production site supported by the local Farmer’s Association failed to pass the inspection. The IMO inspector, however, granted the Talampo three-year organic certification.
The IMO certificate is still proudly displayed at the Talampo Signature Good Store.
“It was like getting a lifebuoy after a shipwreck,” Kacaw says.
With organic certification, Kacaw earns an average of NT$600 per kg of the flowers — all while remaining in the village of his ancestors, exerting more control over his land and being proud of a product he knows is of high quality.
Now that the Swiss certification has run out, the Talampo are currently working for organic certification from Tzu-Xin Organic Foundation (慈心有機基金會), which they hope will grant certification by the end of the year.
“Organic farming is like rolling a large stone down a hill. It is very difficult in the very beginning. But once you get it started, the movement is unstoppable.”