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Magazine digest -- Award-winning farmer maintains guava 'museum'

2010/08/25 18:25:54

Chiang Tsai-lang's dedication to growing guavas for more than 40years has seen him create a wealth of varieties, making his4,850-square-meter farm in central Taiwan a "museum of guava" and amust-see attraction for anyone interested in his unique growing andcultivation techniques.

In addition to the common varieties of guava, the 68-year-old'sfarm in Changhua County's Yuanlin Township boasts such oddities aspurple guavas and guavas that look like watermelons on the inside. Toidentify each variety, Chiang tags his trees with labels in variouscolors.

Chiang began to study farm management, pest control and growingtechniques after becoming the first head of a local guava productionand marketing group in 1989, and his work won him an "OutstandingFarmer" award from the Council of Agriculture in 2006.

"Farmers used to grow without a plan and focus on quantity ratherthan quality. All this had to change, " Chiang said, explaining whathe learned from the group's poor sales at various fairs when it wasfirst getting started.

Chiang's first success came when he developed a fragrant varietyof guava in 1994 that sold for NT$160 (US$5) per jin -- a traditionalmeasurement equal to about 600 grams -- at a time when the price formainstream Thai-style guavas were selling for NT$30 per jin.

Wilma Ku, owner of the jam brand Red on Tree, which buys 360kilograms of Chiang's fragrant guavas every month, said the varietyis perfect for her jam not only because of its fragrance but also itsdurability while being transported.

In addition to new varieties, Chiang has developed his own methodfor producing seedlings from tree branches, which saves money andprevents diseases or pests brought in by seedlings purchased fromoutside.

He also uses sugarcane instead of chemical fertilizer on his farmand received "Good Agriculture Practice" (GAP) certification in 1998-- well ahead of many other farmers.

As Chiang believes branding "is about a recognition of qualitythat stands out among others" and can solve the problem of productionsurpluses, one of his major projects was setting up a brand for theguava production and marketing group.

Chiang is getting older, but he remains determined to maintainthe farm, despite the fact that currently there is no one set to takeover. He has reduced his farm from five hectares to its present sizeand says he will share everything he knows as long as there arepeople willing to learn.(CommonWealth 453)(translated by Kay Liu)