Updated: Jun 5, 2019
(Mandarin version at bottom)
Eight years. That was the time that Akinori Kimura, a Japanese fruit farmer, had to wait for before the apple trees on his organic orchard finally flowered. However, the arduous wait was worth it – the sweet fruits of his labor later went on to dazzle Japan, and now, people wait for years for a taste of his coveted apples. Yet, as the media celebrates such stories of success, it is easy to overlook all the struggles and moments of crushing doubt that Kimura went through before his efforts finally came to fruition.
Like Kimura, Wu Jin-ming, an organic fruit farmer in Taidong – also quietly persisted for eight years before truly seeing success. Upon first inspection, his orchard seems like fertile ground for haphazard weed growth. However, upon closer inspection, one sees evidence of Wu’s attentiveness in every corner of the orchard.
Soil: the Essence of Organic Produce
As one walks into Wu’s orchard filled with loquat (琵琶) and sugar apple (釋迦) trees, one already feels something very different about the place. Under your feet, the soil is firm, and almost elastic; its dark and moist nature indicates quality. Much like how one must procure clean water before breeding fish, one must also obtain fertile soil before cultivating fruit trees. Consequently, Wu spent eight years intensely researching and restoring the soil of his orchard. During those eight years, he allowed his orchard to recuperate and weeds to grow, without the damaging interference of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Of course, those eight years were arduous for Wu, involving many instances of failure and disappointment. Nonetheless, as the idiom goes, “If you do it right, it will last forever.” With this in mind, Wu insisted on using organic cultivating methods – despite being fully aware of the hardships – as he believed that this was the right path for the environment’s sustainability. Today, the soil on Wu’s orchard has a pH value of 7.2, which is within the optimum range for sweet apple trees. Under such favourable growing conditions, it is no wonder that Wu’s sweet apples continuously top the sales charts. At the same time, the popularity of Wu’s produce again shows that this indeed was the right path – both for Wu, and for the continued sustenance of Earth.
Cultivating an organic orchard requires considering the viewpoints of many: the perspective of a plant, and that of an entire ecosystem. For instance, before deciding on what type of fruits to grow, one must also consider their compatibility with existing plant and animal species, the region’s climate, and so on. To the untrained eye, there appear a number of organisms that seem out of place in Wu’s orchard – a lemon tree here, a lychee tree there, some chicken, and even geese. However random they seem individually, each organism serves a specific function within Wu’s orchard. The chicken and geese eat away the weeds, and their droppings become natural fertilizer for the trees. After the birds are done with one field, they are sent away to the next, where they continue their duties. In so doing, Wu accomplishes two tasks at once – weed removal and soil fertilization, eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Out of all the things inside Wu’s orchard, perhaps what is most impressionable is not the sugar apple trees nor the fowl. Rather, it is the sight of a single lychee tree beside a single lemon tree, encircled by rows upon rows of sugar apple trees. Asked about the existence of these two trees, Wu explains, “Well, it was because I wanted to eat lychees.” However, there is a real reason for planting the lemon tree right beside the lychee tree. The lemon tree exudes a special odor, attracting insects that would have otherwise fed on the lychee tree. The lemon tree thus becomes the most natural protector of the lychee tree, and again, highlights Wu’s immaculate attention to detail and his deep understanding of organic agriculture.
The hardest path bears the sweetest fruit
Fortunately, Wu’s efforts have come to fruition. The juicy sweetness of Wu’s organic loquats and sweet oranges leave a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth, and eating them is a delectable experience worthy of remembrance. People often ask Wu incredulously – what exactly do you do to make these fruits so good? To which he responds, “Actually, I don’t do anything!” To a bystander, this comment makes it seem like his orchard – and his subsequent success – came as a gift from the heavens. However, what Wu really means is that he let the fruit trees blossom and mature naturally, sans the shortcut of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Indeed, Wu’s decision to cultivate an organic orchard was the hardest path of all paths as a farmer, involving the most prior preparation and effort. As his eyes sweep across his orchard, where chicken skip around, insects buzz, spiders lazily weave webs, and frogs doze, he comments on a profound sense of satisfaction that wells from deep within. It comes from knowing that his orchard is no longer an injured piece of land waiting to be restored, but rather, a self-contained ecosystem of sorts, where the laws of nature are fully respected.
On a broader note, as we nibble away at organic produce – whether it’s the very loquats grown by Wu or other organic vegetables grown by Lyfegreen's partnering farms, it is important to begin to think more. In a time of increasing environmental degradation, it is prime time to carefully consider the delicate relationships between food demand and the environment’s carrying capacity. Fortunately, we do not have to travel far to see a shining example of a place which finds a balance between the two. Right in our backyard, Taidong, is a prime example of sustainable agriculture: the orchard of Wu Jin-ming.
如今已步上軌道，果園裡無處不是驚喜的金洺自然農場，同樣是經歷過一段漫長8年，默默耕耘的養地過程。這片看似'任雜草隨意長'、'好像什麼不太做'的自然農場，仔細觀察就會發現金洺大哥默默施展的自然魔法 - 其實一點也不隨意。
有機農作物之根 - 土壤
這裡的田土特別溼軟，顏色深如黑土，顯示其有機質含量高而肥沃之程度。所謂養魚要先養水，同樣道理，種植農作就要先養土，這片既柔軟又有韌性的土壤，是金洺農場最重要的功臣之一。吳金洺用了近8年的歲月，不施化學肥料與農藥也不除草的方式，讓地力在不受外力干擾，自然的自我代謝循環下漸漸恢復久遭藥劑摧殘的生命力。這8年當中，一路也遇過失敗與挫折，俗話說：If you do it right, it will last forever. 吳金洺始終相信無農藥無化肥的生產對生態與永續環境是最正確的道路，如今土壤ph值高達7.2，如此健康的土壤所收成的釋迦，在拍賣市場上風風光光地奪了個冠軍，完全是實至名歸，當之無愧！也證明了這條正確的道路，一定能讓土地的生產力長長久久地延續下去。
天生我才必有用 - 雜草、雞糞、植物多樣性的利用
天下沒有白吃的午餐 – 最艱辛的路，最甜美的果實
嚐一口金洺大哥的有機琵琶與釋迦，其多汁甘甜的口感讓人久久難忘懷。他說，常常有人問他，到底在田裡面做了什麼怎麼會種的這麼好吃？他笑了笑憨憨的說：我其實什麼也沒做啊！不知其所以的旁人，聽到這可能會以為如今自然農場的成就是上天賜給金洺大哥的禮物。但什麼都沒做 - 指的是不使用大眾所採取的’農藥與化肥’之捷徑，吳金洺所走的路，是更艱難更需要時間與準備功課來醞釀的自然農法之路。這片現在看得見雞鵝跑跳、聽的見鳥蟲鳴叫、抬頭可見蜘蛛結網、低頭可見青蛙打盹的生態園區，不僅是片修復台灣土地的生機田園，更是個對生命、對自然、對環境都展現尊重態度的小宇宙。讓我們享受到有機良食的同時，更提醒了我們要讓更謹慎的態度思考日常的飲食、農業與生態之間的共生關係。我們不需遠到日本參觀木村爺爺的蘋果自然農場，在後山台東的台九線旁，就有片重視生態多樣性、將生物循環完整運用在農氏耕作上的吳金洺自然農場，默默在為台灣的有機農業付出。