The group touched down late in Taipei, Taiwan to start the last leg of the LEAD 31 International Seminar. The following four days was a whirlwind of experiencing the culture, politics and economy of the East Asian state otherwise known as the Republic of China.
To understand Taiwan, one must understand the split between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (China). Therefore, our first stop was the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which is a dedication and historical narrative to Taiwan’s founding father and first president, Chiang Kai-shek.
From Taipei, the group hopped on a bus to Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan. After, driving through mountain passes and rice paddied landscapes, we visited the Sanfu Leisure Farm and Shangri-La Leisure Farm. The Sanfu and Shangri-La leisure farms are not comparable to my definition of a farm. Rather, I would characterize the Sanfu Leisure Farm and Shangri-La Leisure Farms as eco-tourism sites, consisting of several acres of natural habitat and wildlife tucked into the sides of the mountains.
From Yilan we traveled to Miaoli in northwest Taiwan to visit the Flying Cow Ranch. Referring to the Flying Cow Ranch as a “ranch” is a pretty liberal use of the term. However, Taiwan agriculture is conducted on a much smaller scale than it is in the U.S. with most farms consisting of 2 – 5 acres. Although large in area for Taiwan, the Flying Cow Ranch maintains only small herd of milking cows and goats and is set up more for agri-tourism than commercial milk production. The Ranch does produce a variety of dairy products sold on site to visitors and maintains a 7 acre organic garden.
After visiting the Flying Cow Ranch, we jumped on the bus and headed east to Taipei. Back in Taipei we had the opportunity to visit with representatives from the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), US Grains Council (USGC), US Wheat Associates, and the American Soybean Association International Marketing (ASA-IM) at the American Institute. We also had the opportunity to for a question and answer session at the Taiwan Council of Agriculture, which is essentially Taiwan’s version of the USDA.
The one common theme throughout the Taiwan visit was the large role the U.S. played in Taiwan’s agricultural economy and the desire to build the connection and agricultural trade between the two countries.
Leaving Taiwan and heading home was admittedly bittersweet. I was torn between being ready to go home and the desire to continue experiencing what these countries had to offer. It was an experience I will never forget and will recommend to anyone who asks.