Sun, Jul 21, 2019 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Agriculture council touts success of student funding

By Su Fun-her and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Frida Tsai, right, and a farmer inspect his crop in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Frida Tsai

All of the students from the first graduating class to receive full government funding for agricultural studies have found employment, the Council of Agriculture said of a program aimed at encouraging young people to take up farming.

The program fully covers tuition and provides students with funding for books and supplies, and a stipend for daily expenses during their three years of study. In the fourth year, the students are registered for co-op placements with farms to give them practical work experience.

This year’s program attracted about 300 people, because of the positive feedback it received after it was first introduced in 2015, the council said, adding that there were 30 applicants that year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) has helped drum up support for the program with the central government.

The program could be useful for young people from farming families who want to gain new skills or improve their existing skills, Tsai said, adding that training programs for middle-aged adults could also be subsidized.

The network created by the program also helps farm operators by providing them with marketing connections and putting them in touch with younger farmhands, the council said.

National Chiayi University farm management course director Huang Wen-li (黃文理) said he felt that the program was successful, as all of the students in his course went on to find full-time employment at farms.

National Chiayi University was the first to accept students through the council’s funding program.

The university said that it is now looking to cooperate with schools in other countries, and this summer plans to send students to Japan’s Hokkaido, Finland, Malaysia and other places around the world.

One of the university’s students has applied with the government-affiliated International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) to volunteer in Fiji and teach locals modern farming techniques, it said.

Other students have applied through 4-H to do their co-op year overseas in countries that recognize the organization, the university added.

Throughout the course, students learn about every aspect of farming, from production to marketing, so that they can figure out where their interests lie, Huang said, adding that many students come from farming families that are likely to give them help outside of school.

Tseng Kuan-wei (曾冠維), who was one of the first funded students to graduate, runs his own greenhouse selling asparagus, corn and other produce.

He originally studied civil engineering and has no family members who are in agriculture, Tseng said, adding that he came across information about the program while exploring ideas for his own business.

Lin Chan-peng (林展鵬), who is entering the second year of his agricultural studies, said that while he comes from a farming family, his interest in tea plantations differs from the work and experience of his father.

The council’s program has provided him with an invaluable opportunity to learn new skills and find a co-op placement related to his interests, Lin said.

He has also been able to take courses in different fields, allowing him to learn about things like water quality and its relation to the cultivation of plants, he added.

One student, surnamed Chen (陳), who volunteered in a developing country this summer through the TaiwanICDF, said that students in the program have learned about a variety of agricultural industries, including forestry, fisheries and livestock farming.

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