Meet the Farmer Series 3 - The Shanxing Scallion of Mr Shen
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
(Mandarin version at bottom)
In the past few years, the Yilan government has initiated significant efforts at introducing organic agriculture in the county. Yet, decades before the recent government campaign, Shen Kao-nan (沈高男), a native of Sanxin Township (三星鄉), already spearheaded such an initiative in his backyard, located in the famous Xingjian Organic Rice Village (行健有機夢想村).
From his previous occupation as a policeman to his current job as a farmer, Shen is a man who is unafraid to step out of his comfort zone. Despite the constant challenges of agricultural work and the burden of significant debt, Shen held the mantra of never giving up close to his heart. After years of hard work aided by stubborn determination, he has acquired vast reserves of knowledge, and a unique skillset. Now, he teaches organic agriculture at a nearby community college in the hopes of passing down his knowledge and recruiting more people to follow in his steps.
Shen currently grows the Kaohsiung No. 145 Penglai rice (高雄145號蓬萊米), a type of Japonica rice commonly cultivated in Taiwan. The rice’s texture is slightly firm and chewy, which makes it particularly suitable for sushi rice after being chilled. After years of repeated trials, Shen has come up with what he considers the perfect method for growing rice. Unlike other farmers who flood the rice paddies with water to prevent the growth of weeds, Shen does the opposite. He allows the weeds to freely grow so as to aerate the soil, and to allow the microorganisms in the soil to continue functioning. Because of his unorthodox approach, the quality of Shen’s rice is superior to that of other farmers and scores well on the Rice Flavor Index (食味值).
Shanxing Green Onions (三星小憨蔥-四季蔥)
Shen also grows Sanxin Xiaohan Green Onions (三星小憨蔥 or四季蔥), which is one of Yilan’s most famous crops. However, because this cultivar is particularly prone to pests, most farmers are unwilling to grow it organically. Yet, Shen was unfazed, and decided to plant it anyway despite being aware of the potential difficulties. Because his green onions are tender and full of flavor, Shen often likes to playfully proclaim that, “The best organic green onions in Taiwan are grown in my backyard!”