"I have 600 wives," he says. Yihong, driving his little truck, drove 40 min to pick me up from Douliu, is the owner of six hundred guava trees.
I contacted him a month ago about my plan for visiting organic farms. He bluntly replied, "You're welcome to come, but we won't have that much guava here during the period that you're here. Is that ok?" Over the period of a month before going there, he offered to take me around to other farms, telling me that many farms, even though claiming to be certified organic farms, don't really commit to organic ways of cultivation.
"You can stay over at my place, I have a spare room, my sisters are not here."
Huh? Being along as a girl, I was a bit scared of the offer, so I said "it's ok, I think I'll cause you trouble". I asked if there's other hostel nearby.
A month later, checking in before my visit, he said, "I'll pick you up from Douliu, and you can stay with my parents and I". Oh!! I immediately agreed.
After arriving at the farm, I was so ashamed of my doubt.
It is such a nice place. It is not fancy -- everything is very simple, but everything is very clean, spotless and tidy. His parents, even though mostly speak Taiwanese and very little mandarin, chatted with me with anything they can say.
Being a city girl, I bring doubt and alarm with me instinctively everywhere I go, but when I approached these people, they never responded with any alarm. They smiled and welcomed me into their home, feeding me with whatever they had, the healthy food and drink. What they're really good at is destroying the walls and the worry that you bring with you and make you feel yes someone trusts you, regardless of how you first look at them. The first time seeing him, I was surprised how tiny Yihong was, but after a while, I stopped noticing his height, but saw his optimism, his way of dealing with his farms, his consideration and his generosity.
Yihong used to study at an illustration art school, afterwards, he worked at various different places to try different jobs. However he never felt satisfied with the work. You lose interest once you understand the process behind the job. "I can't stand staying there for too long, it becomes repetitive." Once in a while, he'd come back to the country side and help out with the farm that his dad owns. "They're getting old. Things get harder and harder for them. " so after some consideration, Yihong decided to come back to the farm and take over plant whatever he thinks is suitable and right for the location.
He got rid of the tea plantation, and started planting guava, and a little bit of dragon fruit. "I lost a lot of fruits during the process of transferring from traditional way of farming to near organic," says Yihong. "I was depressed and desperate, cuz of the money I lost, and my dad didn't support my way of thinking at the time. I had to continue believing that this is the right way and that my guavas will eventually grow better." Yihong persisted, even when others mocked him as the young one who lost his mind. What really helped his guava sales is his involvement with Facebook. He mentions that "because of Facebook, I started knowing more people. People started knowing me, and they become my friends and order guava from me, because they trust me. They trust that I can deliver quality and healthy fruit."
Now, even when I order his guava and have it house delivered, I need to wait. "I still owe 20 boxes of guava to other people who have ordered it. I'm sorry, but you'll have to line up."
He drove me back to Taichung, a bigger city well-connected to the transit system, which cost him another 80 min (both ways, 40min each way). So in total, he wasted…or should I say gave me 160 min of his time, driving me around visiting his farm, so -- according to him -- I don't have to waste my time travelling to his farm. I'm not sure what to think of him, his sincerity and his consideration, or that he seems to care more about others than himself.