User:Yun Kang Ku

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Born in a Taiwanese family in Ottawa,1979, I moved to Taiwan with my father when I was 7 years old and was raised in Hsin-Chu County. I left Hsin-Chu to Taipei, the capital, for university which I had a major in psychology. During my college years I was exposed to various activist organizations which I still participate and volunteer such as the Ludi Community College, Taiwan International Workers Association, Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters, and the Autumn Struggle. I was enthused by the strength of the people and the collective will to make a change. After graduating, in 2002, I was drafted in the mandatory army for 20 months which gave me the opportunity to have an insight of how the system of itself works, and, in addition, to feel grateful of the freedom I have.

In 2004, I started to work on the Hyacinth Farm, which in Chinese mandarin is pronounced Feng-Xing-Tze. Feng-Tze has the same pronunciation with characters that means mad man and the word Xing means trust. Before coming to the farm I had no experience in working with the land and also the mentally challenged population (except my mother suffering from schizophrenia). I was fortunate to learn from a traditional hardworking elderly lady, already in her seventies, to grow vegetables organically and seasonally. In addition to work in the fields, we created a working model with our partners (to avoid replicating the power relationships in the hospital, we recognize each other as partners instead of patients/facilitators) on the belief that the value of humanity comes before the quantity of work he/she accomplished. I realized that mental illness is not only the overstress or the lack of social adapting skills of a separate individual, it exposes the insufficiency of a family and the inadequacy of the society and the system. At the same time working in the fields, mother earth opened a door to let me experience the calmness, satisfactory, simplicity and happiness I never had before. I realized how healing the earth and plants are. Not only did our partners have a more stable condition, from the process of growing vegetables I was also deeply touched and inspired by what nature could give us and what we need for a living is just so simple. I started to recognize all we eat, drink, wear and use all come from mother earth, on the other hand I began to contemplate how I could care and give back for the abundance the earth has provided us. I believe we should create a more sustainable living style on the basis of care and respect for all living forms.

After my mother death, I started to think of my next destination and the objectives of my life. For the past 40 years Taiwan has shifted from a agriculture based society to a industrial and commercial society. Young people left their villages and land and “migrated” to cities to look for job opportunities. The connections with nature were also substituted by televisions, computers and video games beyond the younger generation. Old knowledge, handcrafts and techniques passed on for centuries are being buried along with the old farmers. People no long remember where their food come from and while imported beef steaks are consumed we no longer feel grateful for the food we take in, not to mention the energy it used to come all the way from Australia or America. Situations in villages worsened since 2002 when Taiwan joined the WTO. Many farmers stopped growing rice and produce due to the cheap prices of imported food. They started to sell land of their ancestors to developers which do nothing but build blocks of cells. Hence, I find it important to rebuild the sense of community and conserve the knowledge of our traditional culture through supporting and acting locally in order to be prepared for the end of cheap oil and unknown future. But how?

I started thinking of traveling abroad to learn the methods and concepts other cultures practice on their land which could reflect what should and could be done in Taiwan. I left my position on the farm in 2007 and made a documentary film of three partners financially supported by the Taipei Cultural Bureau, and was fortunate to be screened on the Taiwan Biannual Documentary Film Festival. I joined the Raging Citizens Act Now activist organization in two election campaigns, which in the later one collaborated with the Taiwan Green Party. By the meanwhile I wrote a proposal to raise funds to make this trip to North America to learn and accumulate experiences in the organic agriculture, permaculture, ecovillage and community building fields. I expect to travel to different climate regions and different urban/rural settings to learn how different cultures try to live with the earth and communities harmoniously. I took the Horticulture Therapy Summer Intensive Program at the New York Botanical Garden and did an intern with the GreenHouse Program run by the New York Horticulture Society on Rikers Island in August and September. Later, I finished the Ecovillage and Permaculture Design Certificate Program in fall at the Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon and worked as a land intern for two months which gave me great opportunities to practice permaculure through various projects such as digging a swale for rainwater catchment in order to water fruit trees, composting, maintaining the forest garden, chicken raising, planting native shrubs, etc. I’m still on my journey learning and hope to contribute to the vibrant fulfilling earth you’re living with.

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