To promote farmers’ markets on campus, the University invited local farmers to set up around 20 booths on the Main Campus on September 25. These farmers wanted to appeal to the public to use less plastic and reduce our carbon footprint, so they asked people to bring their own reusable utensils and inspired them to carry out friendlier ways of consumption for the betterment of the world.
How can we make this world better? The University’s Consumer Cooperative was founded to help consumers know more about the production processes of agricultural products; therefore, the Cooperative has been sponsoring a farmers’ market once a month. The Cooperative’s four goals are “eco-friendliness”, “reduction of plastic waste”, “a vegetarian diet for reducing our carbon footprint “, and “honest labeling “. The Cooperative makes efforts to enable consumers to meet producers face-to-face, and through their communication with each other, consumers can understand the entire production process, as well as reasons why the producers chose organic farming. Through these interactions, many University colleagues and students are willing to support organic farming, carry out friendlier ways to treat the Earth, and move toward sustainable development.
On September 25, many local products were offered in the farmers’ market, which included fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, a variety of dried fruits and vegetables, hand-made jams, fresh coffee beans, and various snacks. Many faculty members, staff, students and off-campus visitors brought their own reusable utensils to the market.
Ms. Wen is a local resident who has fully supported the farmers’ market, and she has visited the University’s farmers’ market many times. Ms. Wen was happy to see so many young entrepreneurs there, and she loved the freshness and cleanness of the foods. Ms. Wen also enjoyed talking to local farmers, so she was able to acquire more food knowledge.
“The pomelos are not for sale!” Shexi Zhang planted pomelos and he had sold almost all of his produce. Since switching to organic farming, the appearance of his pomelos hasn’t been as good as those of other farmers, and he did have some worries. With the Cooperative’s assistance, most of his pomelos were sold out this year. On this day, he came to solely express his gratitude, thus his pomelos were not for sale.
In 2017, Tzu Chi University funded this Consumer Cooperative, through the University Social Responsibility (USR) program, with faculty members, staff, and students as its main members. To support Hualien’s organic and environmentally-friendly farm industry, the Cooperative purchases its products mainly from small farmers in Hualien; moreover, it assists small farmers and tribes in Hualien to form their own produce cooperatives. As a result, a local circular economy is now emerging.
The Cooperative has gradually exerted its social impact. In addition to working with Hualien’s farmers, it has offered sustainable soil management classes in Guangfu, Wanrong, and Fengbin townships, and invited our students to learn firsthand in the Cooperative store. Since its inception in 2017, we have assisted more than 30 local farmers in Hualien to market their products, from first-level agricultural products to processed products.
Farmers are good at growing their produce, and so our University provides a platform to assist them in marketing their products. In addition to setting up physical stores, the Cooperative will help organize farmers in Hualien and Taitung Counties to form an alliance. Through joint efforts, we wish that farmers in eastern Taiwan can sell a variety of organic and friendly agricultural products, through online stores, to reach people around Taiwan.