Yuanli youngsters returning home to put down roots

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In the scorching heat of summer, local ladies hold the one essential element for mat-making, common rush. Miaoli’s Yuanli is a small town rich in agricultural products, including rice and mats woven from common rush. The central dilemmas smallholders face are difficulties in marketing their produce and population outflow in the young generation. It wasn’t until locals met a group of youngsters returning to their hometowns in the countryside that things began to change. 

Yuanli resident Chen Xiu-lan (陳秀鑾) said, “Few people weave with common rush anymore. What’s more, fewer people are harvesting it because it fetches a poor price. Customers don’t buy handicrafts if they’re too expensive, and people don’t want to work if the price is too low. Modern people go to work. No one weaves with common rush anymore.”

But just while the farmers were struggling with these thorny issues, they happened to meet a group of youngsters that stayed to serve the community following the improper installation of large-scale wind turbines in Yuanli five years ago. The youngsters established “Take the Sea Wind,” a group that not only encourages young people to return to their rural hometowns but also assists smallholders with marketing agricultural products and handicrafts woven from common rush.  

以下為中文對照

夏日炎炎,阿姨手中正握著製作草席必備的藺草。苗栗苑裡是一處盛產農產品的小鎮,有稻米,也有製作草席的藺草。但是小農們卻面對著行銷以及年輕人外移的困境。直到他們遇上了一群返鄉營造的青年後,情況才逐漸好轉。

苑裡居民陳秀鑾表示,藺草現在少人做,都不好收成,因為價差的問題,太貴顧客不買,便宜人家又不想做。現代人都去上班,沒有人要做藺草。

正當農工們都面臨著棘手的問題時,剛好遇上五年前反對大型風力發電機在苑裡海邊的不當設置後,選擇留在當地服務的青年。他們成立了「苑裡掀海風」的返鄉計劃,並積極協助小農行銷農產品,推廣特色藺草編織產品。

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