Tue, Aug 01, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Engineer quits job to grow organic tea

ECO-FRIENDLY:Since Yu Cheng-fu stopped using pesticides on his family’s tea farm four years ago, the number of insects, and their predators, has increased

By Chang Yi-chen  /  Staff reporter

Tea farmer Yu Cheng-fu, right, holds tea leaves from his organic plantation in Yilan’s Dongshan Township on Friday last week.

Photo courtesy of Yu Cheng-fu

After quitting a high-paying engineering job eight years ago, tea farmer Yu Cheng-fu (游正福) has succeeded in cultivating organic tea and converting the once pesticide-reliant farms into a new home for wildlife.

Yu, 34, said he had worked for a well-known electronics company in Taipei and was paid about NT$1 million (US$33,083) annually.

However, the bankruptcy of US-based Lehman Brothers Holdings in 2008 dealt serious blows to businesses worldwide, and the company he worked for was no exception, Yu said.

Many of his colleagues were laid off, he said, adding that while he was lucky to retain his job, he had an increased workload.

Yu said he decided to quit his job and return to his home in Yilan’s Dongshan Township (冬山) to help his family’s tea farming business.

He said he planned to stop using pesticides to embrace environmentally friendly agricultural practices and he hoped to grow black tea instead of oolong.

However, his father disapproved of his plans, he said.

Without pesticides the tea trees might not yield enough leaves to pay for their cost, and black tea was not as popular and valuable as oolong tea, Yu’s father said.

Honey black tea grown in Hualien County’s Rueisuei Township (瑞穗) is much celebrated, Yu said.

“Why can Dongshan, with similar geology and climate, not produce black tea of the same quality?” Yu said.

Yu’s father changed his stance when the Farmers’ Association began to promote black tea and its price surpassed that of oolong, Yu said.

“After that, my father let me do whatever I wanted,” he added.

Yu said he persuaded his father to adopt organic farming methods and that after struggling for four years, they obtained official recognition for their organic tea earlier this year.

Soon after they won the “Green Conservation Mark” from the Forestry Bureau for their eco-friendly farms, which is home to many animals, including Formosan Reeve’s muntjacs, Formosan blue magpies, crab-eating mongoose and insects, Yu said.

“Insects are killed by the pesticides farmers use, which affects the surrounding ecosystem,” Yu said.

After he stopped using pesticides, the number of insects increased on his farms and so has the number of their natural predators, he said.

Without chemical fertilizers, their soil became softer, which has led to the return of termite mushroom, which had long disappeared from the area, he added.

Yu is planning to host ecological tours to boost local leisure businesses.

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