Like Shinny, I also met Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association’s secretary-general Yu Wen-Horng for the first time in Yilan on the 2005’s October 10 National Day.
The soft-spoken man told me he had actually wanted to be a monodon shrimp breeder! Indeed, Yu was doing an aquaculture course while studying at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, before pursuing a course specializing in Yilan’s water quality and soil structure at National Taiwan Ocean University, and is himself an expert in aquaculture.
However, he eventually chose to work at the Yilan county agricultural department to be a white collar civil servant.
He said from working at the agricultural and fishery department to the planning of leisure farming, he had learned to love the land, and understand the feelings of the farmers. He said he had wanted to do his best to help the farmers solve their problems, especially on industrial regulations.
As a native of Yilan, Yu started to build his dream on the soil of Yilan, as he started to orchestrate the planning of farm leisurisation and specification. To make up for his shortfall in academic and legal knowledge, he quit his stable government job and pursued a doctorate program in the leisure industry.
In 1998, Shangri-La farm’s Zhang Chin-Lai and several others founded Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association, and two years later they officially invited Yu to take over the sec-gen post, a position he has been holding for the past 22 years until this day.
From that moment on, Taiwan’s agriculture industry has become more and more systematic, as a farm leisurisation revolution started off in a guided, right direction.
Under the leadership and effort of Yu and his team, Taiwan’s agriculture industry has improved remarkably and has continued to create added value each year. Owing to the ever-changing times and elevated quality of living and demand for quality leisure activities, the value of the island’s rural farming ecotourism industry has multiplied many times over.
Some of the agricultural products which used to have hardly any market value such as ordinary rice, lowland tea leaf, normal grapefruit, mushrooms and other fruits and vegetables, have now become sought after “star products” which are selling robustly throughout Greater China, thanks to the association’s creative assistance and professional guidance.
I remember during their two Taiwan leisure farming roadshows in Malaysia, Yu humbly told the participants, “The miracle of Taiwan’s successful farm leisurisation and transformation lies with its people’s love for the farmlands and the unique rural farm culture.”
As a matter of fact, that should be rightly attributed to Yu’s collaboration through the association with various tertiary research institutions, agriculture scholars, technicians, marketing professionals, etc. across Taiwan, in authoring and drawing up the most updated SOPs for the industry to be evaluated and approved by the Council of Agriculture under the Executive Yuan, before heading to the farms to offer their professional guidance and assistance.
Because of the constant improvement, Taiwan has overtaken Japan and Germany to be the latest role model for the world in farm economy.
At the invitation of Yu, I went to Taiwan to deliver a keynote address at a vocational training camp for the island’s second generation leisure farm operators. Back then I learned from Yu that the association had over the last few years strongly promoted its advocacy for quality, taste and brand value, as well as the core strategies of human resource development, service quality certification, product diversification and market exploitation.
For so many years, Yu has been toiling conscientiously to keep improving and upgrading. He is veritably the most important person behind Taiwan’s hugely successful agriculture transformation and leisurisation.
Notably, Yu has maintained an excellent relationship with the Malaysian media, and will regularly invite Malaysian media to annual familiarization trips to Taiwan’s leisure farms. Over the years, he has made almost 400 media friends from Malaysia! Additionally, he will fly into KL during the autumn travel fair each year to meet up with these media friends.
(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)