Marketing Farm Culture: New Generation Takes Over the Businesses and Presents Brand New Perspectives

Leisure farms have been developed in Taiwan for years. With the success made by the first generation, a travel lifestyle is formed gradually. Now many farms start passing the business to their second generation. Facing multiple challenges such as industrial transformation, changes in the market, etc, what strategies these successors born in the 1980s take in response to the situations? In this report, we interview Jia-Ru Cai at Dakeng Leisure Farm(大坑休閒農場) and Kan-Qiang Wu at Fairy Lake Leisure Farm(仙湖休閒農場) to share the feelings they underwent.

The delicious dishes to steal your heart

“Nowadays customers are very different from those in older times. They pay attention to the physical environment, services even the interactions with the farm owner.” Speaking of the changes of consumer environment in the past and present, Jia-Ru Cai analyzes visitors from other cities/counties came to the farm mostly because of friends and relatives’ recommendation or loyal customers’ referral. And when they were in the farm, they would like to learn more about farm life from the interactions with the farm owner. While now with the assistance of computer technology, visitors already have all sorts of information from websites or media and come visit with an “I know it all already and here I am to verify what I know” attitude which reduces their willingness to communicate with the farm owner, and that is quite a pity.

As for the marketing challenges, Cai points out that many B&B and hotels enter the market and offer in-depth guided tour programs, and many emerging scenic spots become suddenly popular with the help of internet, and that disperses the visitors. Therefore, the successors have to make the market bigger by attracting foreign visitors. She points out that visitors from Singapore and Malaysia are the important customer base of their leisure farm right now.

“We sisters are lucky to face the challenge together. The eldest sister, Jia-Ling is responsible for sales and marketing. Jia-Ru is the chef. The youngest sister, Jia-Yun is in charge of the counter. ” She confesses, the change of consumption trend, together with the media power, is a boost and also a pressure. Following their parents’ hospitable philosophy and utilizing local Da-Keng features and advantages, the 3 sisters focus on providing consumers with the best services.

Jia-Ru Cai’s culinary skills are learnt from her mother. She is also influenced by her grandfather, a local farmer in Dakeng, so that she is very familiar with the features of local food. She is good at incorporating creativity into the country foods, such as baked sweet potato sakura shrimp and rosemary sausage; both are popular among the tourists. She also designs a one-day or two-day tour according to agricultural products in season. The annual bamboo shoot feast is a best example. The bamboo shoots that are freshly picked and cooked not only are healthy and delicious, but also convey a low-carbon concept. There used to be visitors, chartering a tour bus, from northern Taiwan to enjoy the feast; and it is also favored by Southeast Asian visitors.

Jia-Ru Cai said, the fibers of Dakeng bamboo shoots are delicate, and the dew on the mountain areas make the bamboo shoots taste especially sweet and crispy. The fresh bamboo shoots are good for salad and stew, these various kinds of cooking methods. Though Southeast Asian countries also grow bamboo shoots, the fibers are thicker and therefore, mainly for processed food because the mouth feel is rougher and more astringent.

In order to broaden the customer source, the Cai sisters proactively develop the oversea market by story marketing their leisure farm. The domestic travel peak season is in summer and winter vacations while the Southeast Asian tourists travel in March-May and September-December which is complementary and they make up the gap. Jia-Ru Cai also shares her takeaway on oversea marketing, “Japanese tourists prefer to read travel guides so printed publications are important to them; while broadcast programs work for Singaporeans and Malaysians.” She seems quite confident in broadening the oversea tourist market.

Talking about Culture, a Dongshan Farmer’s Life Aesthetics

More than 8 years ago, Kan-Qiang Wu retired from the army and returned home to be a farmer. There are some stories hardly known to anyone on his way to take over the business. When he just returned home, he often had conflicts with his father, “There was about half a year that in the morning, my father would place the tables where he wanted them to be; and in the afternoon, I moved them to where I preferred. And then I realized we have different aesthetic understanding. ” After the transition period due to the generation gap, he gradually found the balance and started trying new practices.

“The major source of customers were grandmom-and-grandpa tour groups driven here by tour buses, and they came sing karaoke, took fruit picking as if they were in the traditional market and bargained for it. But what made Fairy Lake different from other places? ”. With a crew cut, Kang-Qiang Wu, a tourism-major graduate, was into his contemplation. He recalled when he was a kid, he liked listening to stories told by the old in the village. If he could turn the local history, crops and customs into a kind of culture and shorten the distance between the origin of production and consumers then he may build the unique feature of Fairy Lake Leisure Farm.

He adopts “reservation” practice for fruit picking, instead of the old model fruit gardens usually had, “eating while picking”, and he designs a series of guided tour activities—first, visitors listen to stories under the trees so to understand the relationship between Dongshan longan, the culture of roast-and-cooking huts and this land. Then they start fruit picking to experience the fun. He also participates in international travel fairs, through the experiences of greeting foreign visitors, he enhances the service standard of the farm, from the reception desk, cuisine development, room service, guided tour to customer development. He totally reshapes the Fairy Lake Leisure Farm.

Now the independent travelers account for 50% of their customers. This group of tourists is all ears when the stories on the farm development are told. Hence the Fairy Lake Leisure Farm also develops a group of tourists who enjoy in-depth travelling and quality agriculture.

“From the tree to the glass, growing longan can also be like growing grapes and wine making in France. I want to be the one who defines life aesthetics.” Kan-Qiang Wu said laughingly. The alfresco bar is his creative lab where he incorporates local agricultural products for all kinds of drinks, handmade desserts, such as dried longan from the roast hut, “Gui-Latte”, milk with coffee grown and sold by themselves, and dried longan brownies. This young man, standing in front of us, tells the stories of his families living in Dongshan over 6 generations, and we can truly feel his love and passion for his home town and his desire to preserve the precious farm culture.