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dot Teen in Tuku: community empowering action of a young farmer
 

Author: Community Empowering Society 

Photo: JiaLiang Lin

 

Walking between the ancient blocks of TuKu Township, Yunlin County, young farmer Lin Jia-Liang introduced the old-day glories of Tuku Old Streets to us. He unfolded the Japanese-era neat planning of the streets, the reasons of Tuku becoming an important distribution center of the goods and what kind of commercial development led Tuku to its hustle and bustle. He asked us to take a look at the decorations of the windows from time to time, greeted every shop owner friendly. Obviously, he took a lot of efforts understanding his hometown.

 

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In fact, Jia-Liang was originally a farmer practicing natural farming in Tuku. Most people know Jia-Liang from media because he adopted old oxen by building sheds. Now 38 years old, Jia-Liang consider the adoption an accident. He worked far away from home like other local teens at first, in his age of 30, he saw a series of reports introducing townships of Taiwan on Commonwealth Magazine, thus he decided to visit 368 townships of Taiwan. In his journey, he discovered that some rural area practicing conventional farming have brought environmental hazard to the land. Moreover, the news of tainted food products was very common in Taiwan at that time. Jia-Liang then decided to do farming back in his hometown. He established his own brand “Huixiang Rice,” and started planting friendly rice with natural farming. In 2017, Gau Yi-Xin from Hsichou, Changhua introduced him to began the journey adopting old oxen, and started to cooperate with schools organizing agricultural education program. He hoped kids can understand their hometown, identify their land, and cherish the food. He started crowdfunding to collect the capital of building the shed, people can buy his rice by funding the ox shed. “The existence of old oxen represents the culture of an era. Though the mechanism era has come, and the oxen are old, its culture value is still there. With this cultural background, we have the possibility of developing sightseeing industry,” Jia-Liang said.

 

In his journey through 368 townships in Taiwan, people often asked about his hometown Tuku. What features Tuku? Are there any sightseeing spots? He could not answer those questions, since he felt like a stranger to the town that nourished him. It became the motivation for him understanding Tuku and devoting to local community. Other then friendly farming, he spent extra time reorganizing the historical and cultural information. He collected local stories of neighbors and shops, hoping to introduce Tuku to visitors by understanding them first. 

 

In 2018, Lin Jia-Liang successfully applied for the community empowering spot plan of Yulin County Government, he collaborated with local artist Zhang Zhen-Fu and published travelers’ leaflet, introducing the religious center, local farmers, innovative old shops, and cultural creative handmade products. They hope it can be the first step people know Tuku Old Street. In 2019, they republished a more exquisite version and introduced the classical food in there.

 

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The old shops in Tuku has their own features, not only on their architecture, but also the stories inherited throughout the time. For instance, Feng Cun Hang groceries store keeps its wooden house by not only guarding a store but witnessing the development of Tuku; Fang Zhen-Nan and his wife, the shop owners of Xiqin pastry and bakery, insists in using high quality materials and selling with low price; the third generation of Jin Mao Li cloak & watch shop started their business of coffee shop, turning the old shop into a new look…… These are the spots one must take a look when visiting Tuku!

 

As for the plan for the future, jia-Liang successfully applied for a three-year plan from Soil and Water Conservation Bureau. From farmer experiencing to local farmer and shop owner connection, he looks forward to the production of a sustainable experiencing tour with peoples’ effort. Besides the tour, he cooperates with local shops providing boxes and DIY courses to tourists, in order to attract more people to Tuku. The last and largest hope he has in this proposal, is to bring out “from farm to table” food services for tourists, so they can enjoy Tuku in a whole.

 

It is the 8th year since Jia-Liang came back to Tuku, he thinks this fascinating township has a rich cultural background, while facing the problems rural areas have commonly: population migration and aging society. Recently, he is happy to see the second and third generations coming back and inheriting their family business. He hopes that Tuku can attract more people sharing interests in cultural works as well as rural lifes, so they can build up this splendid township together.

 

Authorization in this article:CC3.0 BY-NC-SA



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