COA Honors Dozens for Advancements in Rural Economy

  • By Yang Yuan-ting and by Kayleigh Madjar / Journalist, with an editor

Thirty people received the Council of Agriculture (COA) Rural Elite Awards yesterday for their contributions to the life, economy and ecology of rural areas.

Only 30 people were selected from 253 nominees for the award, which is now in its third year, according to council data.

Winners will have the chance to travel to rural areas of Japan to learn from their international peers, the council said.

Photo: Yang Yuan-ting, Taipei Times

The youngest winner is Lee Chih-lun (李誌倫), 31, a co-owner of an organic farming collective in Jhuolan Township (卓蘭) of Miaoli County.

The son of two farmers, Lee received support from the council’s ‘Rural Up’ youth competition nine years ago to start planting bamboo, passion fruit, mushrooms and other crops.

Through this experience, he learned not only about farming, but also about food processing and marketing, the council said.

After graduating from the visual communication and design department of Chaoyang University of Technology, Lee realized he could put his skills to good use as a leader of an agricultural collective.

He worked with 80 partners to create a farm where visitors can camp and experience rural life.

The farm produces more than 100 herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables each year that visitors can eat or use in cooking.

As everything is produced organically for the sake of active ecological restoration, there are many protected animal species, including fireflies.

Most farm workers are in their teens or 20s and come from a wide variety of backgrounds, providing a friendly atmosphere for visitors, Lee said.

With the exception of the partial Level 3 lockdown last year, Lee said the farm has seen around 30% more visitors on weekdays than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that the borders are about to reopen, Lee said he was excited to introduce international tourists to rural Taiwanese culture.

Another recipient, Chen Yu-chai (陳玉釵), is the director of Keliao (蚵寮) community in Kouhu Township (口湖) of Yunlin County.

In addition to promoting local products and helping farmers grow their customer base, Chen also established a rural community center in the former pigsty of his home.

Twelve years ago, she transformed the pigsty into a “Keliao school”, offering after-school care and guidance to children, as well as activities and meals for the elderly.

The center has since become a group home for children and the elderly in the community, the council said.

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