A man who became known as the “Rice Bomber” after planting rice-filled explosive devices in 2003 and 2004 to protest what he considered the government’s neglect of farmers, Yang Ju-men (楊儒門) has adopted a much more peaceful approach to revitalizing and promoting his vision — by taking two water buffaloes to a bustling shopping district in Taipei.
“To Taiwanese, water buffaloes used to be important family members, and this sense of family could remind us what agriculture is all about,” said the 35-year-old, who was pardoned in 2007 after spending 16 months in jail.
Having met the two animals, named “Rice Rice” and “Little Rice,” even the most jaded city slickers will pause and ponder what may be wrong in their life, Yang said.
Starting this Saturday, Yang will show the water buffaloes as part of the Lead Jade Seed Project on a 1,000m2 plot of farmland near Songshan High School of Agriculture and Industry on the edge of the Xinyi (信義) shopping district.
The project, which is now in its fourth year, aspires to regenerate urban communities with more humane and natural designs that blend the old and the new, and encourage a greater appreciation of simple aesthetics.
In trying to bring nature to the lives of city dwellers, Yang will complement his introduction of the water buffaloes by demonstrating methods of organic farming that anybody can try out on their balconies.
He will offer herb growing lessons that he hopes will appeal to busy office workers, who may have only limited amounts of time to get a glimpse of nature through growing herbs such as mint, lavender and basil.
“The idea is to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings,” said Yang, who spends most of his day barefoot, working in the paddies and taking about 70 visitors per day on tours through the nearby temporary museum, where an exhibition on grains and vegetables is being held.
Yang and his buffaloes can be seen early on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the temporary presale house-style museum which is being sponsored by a local developer.
The buffaloes, which are being transported in from Hsinchu County, will also appear in Taipei on March 9, 10 and 16, and on April 20.