Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 12 News List

This healing earth

A farm recently established in Shoufeng aims to use organic agricultural practices as a way of providing therapy and enjoyment for the intellectually disabled

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff Reporter

The work comes right down to manufacturing its own fully organic fertilizer. Farm specialist Chen Chi-huang (陳志煌) said: “We make our own organic fertilizer, using earthworms. Cow dung and such organic fertilizer is difficult to obtain, and chicken droppings have issues with residue of antibiotics and other chemicals, so we make our own using earthworms to process various organic matter.”

Lin emphasized that while the work is labor and time intensive, it has clear parameters that can be easily grasped. Tasks are assigned based on each individual’s abilities, with the less seriously disabled given more complex tasks.

Lin has big plans for the New Dawn Care Farm, and hopes that soon it will be able to grow a wide variety of organic vegetables. Nevertheless, he emphasized that therapy is and will always be the primary goal of the facility.

The environmental aspect of the farm is also of great importance, and Lin said that the facility would practice agriculture according to the principles of permaculture, an agricultural system that seeks to develop sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

“We don’t want to use chemicals at any stage of the agricultural process,” Lin said. “Permaculture has a strong environmental component, and for us, production yield is the least of our concerns. We want to create a safe environment in which our residents can interact with nature, and so we took the ecological concerns of permaculture on board as well.”

“The plants have to battle the forces of nature,” farm specialist Pan Tien-chi (潘添祺) said holding up a bunch of leaves spotted and withered by insects.

“When you grow without the aid of pesticides, this is what you get,” he said, “so we harvest what remains.”

Reap what you sow

Fortunately, as produce is not a priority, the New Dawn Care Farm can afford this minimal yield as they gradually put the land into shape and create an environment that is naturally more resistant to pests.

For the patients who visit the farm, all the work they put in reaches a culmination at the New Dawn stall at the weekly farmers market in Hualien, where they also have a chance to sell some of their produce. Lin said that the process of farming and selling the produce, in which they can enjoy the results of their labor, was an experience that gave residents a wider and more useful interaction with their world.

More information about the New Dawn can be found online at www.newdawn.org.tw (some English content).

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