Wed, Jan 09, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Engineer pursues rural dream

BACK TO THE LAND:Chen Chien-tai wants to develop 1,000 ecologically friendly, community-backed farms along the borders where urban and rural areas meet

By Chung Li-hua and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A CSA is a locally based scheme in which a group of people who have pledged to support one or more farms financially or through contributing labor are entitled to share in the farm’s produce.

Chen’s first CSA project was initiated at Rainbow Farm (彩虹農場) in Sanchongpu (三重埔), a Hakka farming village in Hsinchu County’s Jhudong Township (竹東).

The 600 ping (1,980m2) plot of land on which the farm stands is rented from champion rice farmer Chuang Cheng-teng (莊正燈), who was invited to pass on his expertise as a consultant to the project.

The scheme is currently supported by 16 households, who not only regularly purchase produce — including cucumbers, eggplants, green asparagus and peppers — from the farm, but also occasionally roll up their sleeves to help with farm work.

The distribution distance between growers and consumers is less than 3km, Chen said.

Based on the successful Rainbow Farm model, Chen launched another CSA project last year in Hsinchu’s Cianjia Borough (千甲), a remote Aboriginal community.

While the institute’s Social Philanthropy Committee had given the green light to the Cianjia scheme, Chen later resigned from his full-time position at the institute to spend more time on the project and promote more CSA programs.

Since his resignation, Chen has been cooperating with local Aborigines as a project executor to construct a family-style CSA farm that caters to people in urban areas.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of Chen and Cianjia residents, the farm began its pilot run earlier this month, offering fresh, pesticide-free vegetables to a total of 35 employees at the institute.

Chen hopes to develop 1,000 ecologically friendly CSA farms along the borders of urban and rural areas, threading them together to form an “agricultural necklace” around the neck of metropolitan society.

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