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Kids taught importance of farming

A leisure farm in Taiwan has way of inculcating the importance of agriculture in the young minds of kids and their parents. This is at the Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort, a member of the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association based in Yilan county.

We visited the place recently in the company of other journalists and travel agents. What did we find when we arrived there? About a dozen kids less than ten years old accompanied by their mothers. The kids were really enjoying straining and mixing the medium for producing mushroom spawns.

  • HANDS-ON FARMING EXPERIENCE FOR KIDS – At the Tongshan Tea and Rice Resort in Yilan, Taiwan, the importance of agriculture is inculcated early in the minds of young kids. In photo, for instance, the young kids are brought by their parents to experience preparing the growing medium for mushroom spawn. Later, the kids experience eating dishes using different species of mushrooms as the main ingredients.

    HANDS-ON FARMING EXPERIENCE FOR KIDS – At the Tongshan Tea and Rice Resort in Yilan, Taiwan, the importance of agriculture is inculcated early in the minds of young kids. In photo, for instance, the young kids are brought by their parents to experience preparing the growing medium for mushroom spawn. Later, the kids experience eating dishes using different species of mushrooms as the main ingredients.

  • MUSHROOM FRUITING BAG – Mavish Chien shows a mushroom fruiting bag. At the learning center, young kids experience preparing the growing medium used in the fruiting bag. Not only the kids become appreciative of the importance of agriculture but also the parents who accompany their children.

    MUSHROOM FRUITING BAG – Mavish Chien shows a mushroom fruiting bag. At the learning center, young kids experience preparing the growing medium used in the fruiting bag. Not only the kids become appreciative of the importance of agriculture but also the parents who accompany their children.

  • MINI RICE MILL – A mini rice mill is part of the learning equipment at the Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort where children as well as adults attend sessions to make them aware of the importance of agriculture in people’s lives. Here, a member of the Philippine group is placing palay in the machine for milling.

    MINI RICE MILL – A mini rice mill is part of the learning equipment at the Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort where children as well as adults attend sessions to make them aware of the importance of agriculture in people’s lives. Here, a member of the Philippine group is placing palay in the machine for milling.

  • SWEETENING POPRICE – The poprice is sweetened by adding brown sugar as soon as it is taken from the pop machine. It takes only a few minutes to pop the rice in the machine. Here, a worker shows how to mix the sugar with the use of wooden ladles.

    SWEETENING POPRICE – The poprice is sweetened by adding brown sugar as soon as it is taken from the pop machine. It takes only a few minutes to pop the rice in the machine. Here, a worker shows how to mix the sugar with the use of wooden ladles.

  • POPRICE MACHINE – Photo shows Jude Bacalso, a member of the Philippine group, placing a kilo of rice in the poprice machine. It only takes a few minutes for the rice to get popped. The machine is small and is used to educate visitors and learners on how value can be added to farm products like rice. When popped, rice increases in market value four times.

    POPRICE MACHINE – Photo shows Jude Bacalso, a member of the Philippine group, placing a kilo of rice in the poprice machine. It only takes a few minutes for the rice to get popped. The machine is small and is used to educate visitors and learners on how value can be added to farm products like rice. When popped, rice increases in market value four times.

  • CLOSE UP OF POPPED RICE – The popped rice grains remain whole, not broken. Making poprice is one way in adding value to farm produce. When sold in the market, a kilo of rice that is made into poprice will fetch four times the original value of rice. The Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort is a leisure farm focused on teaching visitors the importance of agriculture.

    CLOSE UP OF POPPED RICE – The popped rice grains remain whole, not broken. Making poprice is one way in adding value to farm produce. When sold in the market, a kilo of rice that is made into poprice will fetch four times the original value of rice. The Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort is a leisure farm focused on teaching visitors the importance of agriculture.

  • SHABU-SHABU – The Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort, a member of the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association, also operates a restaurant which serves the organic products of farmers in the township. Aside from rice, the farmers produce mushroom, pomelo and tea. The products are also sold at the resort’s grocery store. Photo shows mushrooms and other produce used in shabu-shabu served in their restaurant.

    SHABU-SHABU – The Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort, a member of the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association, also operates a restaurant which serves the organic products of farmers in the township. Aside from rice, the farmers produce mushroom, pomelo and tea. The products are also sold at the resort’s grocery store. Photo shows mushrooms and other produce used in shabu-shabu served in their restaurant.

Tongshan township is where 40,000 people, mostly farmers, reside. Several years back, Tammy Chien decided to convert an old warehouse into a learning center with focus on farming. The town’s four main products are rice, mushroom, pomelo and tea.

At the learning center, the participants experience hands-on do-it-yourself educational activities. In mushroom culture, they don’t only teach how to prepare the planting materials and to grow them. They are also taught  to prepare the mushrooms into delicious dishes.

During our visit, shabu-shabu was served with different mushroom species as the main ingredients. The kids who were in a different long table prepared their own lunch also with mushrooms and other vegetables.

For a half-day session, the kids are charged a fee of 250 Taiwan dollars equivalent to P375 in Philippine money.  Last year, about 8,000 kids participated in the do-it-yourself educational activities, according to Tammy Chien, the lady CEO. That’s apart from the adults who also take part in the activities.

In rice, planting rice is not the only topic that is discussed. To appreciate the rice that is cooked, there is a mini rice mill installed in the learning center where one can see how rice is milled. The rice mill can produce well polished rice. The learning center also shows how to produce brown rice that is richer in vitamins than its well-polished counterpart.

Then there is value-adding in rice. Installed in the learning center is a poprice machine that can convert milled rice into poprice. The small machine can make poprice in just a few minutes.  The popped rice is whole not broken. One kilo of rice which costs NT$100 can be worth NT$400 when sold with little expense on brown sugar to sweeten it.

The Tongshan Rice and Tea Resort has also put up a store where the farmers’ produce are sold. Most of them are in processed form.

By the way, leisure farms in Taiwan have been promoted by the government for several years now to improve the economic status of farmers. Agritourism is being promoted by the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association (TLFDA) which is financially supported by the government.

The association assists members in putting up their own leisure farms in the form of training, assistance in business documentation and in promoting agritourism among local and foreign visitors.

TLFDA has been active in attracting visitors from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and lately in the Philippines. In the last few years, an increasing number of Filipino visitors have visited Taiwan leisure farms. Recently, a group of Filipino Chinese students went on a 3-week orientation on environment as well as to practice their mandarin.

Filipino entrepreneurs who want to put up their own leisure farms can learn a lot from visiting some of farms in Taiwan. Most of them are family-owned, some occupying only a hectare although there are also much bigger ones.