CARLSBAD, Calif. — Using a single Taiwanese wax apple plant gifted to him 40 years ago, “Uncle Happy Farmer” transformed his San Diego-area backyard into a flourishing exotic fruit farm.
Eighty-year-old Frank Lin and his wife Cheng-Mei grow more than 40 varieties of tropical fruits and vegetables in their home garden, Green Lotus Organic Farm in Carlsbad.
He and his wife both come from Taiwanese farm families.
“We make a really great combination,” Frank said. “I know how to grow vegetables; she knows how to grow fruit trees.”
Frank moved to the United States to study engineering at Ohio State University. He then moved to California to work as a civil engineer for the City of Carlsbad.
That’s where he planted his roots and started his organic farm in 1980.
“At that time, we didn’t have money to buy a house, so we found a piece of vacant lot. After five o’clock, I helped my wife and on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, I delivered vegetables to the Chinese market, saving the money to pay the down payment,” he said.
In three years, they had enough money for a down payment on the one-acre lot. However, it took a while to perfect the growing conditions for tropical delicacies like the Taiwanese Wax Apple.
The maritime San Diego weather is much like Taiwan, but the soil is different.
“In the summer it’s not cold, in the winter it’s very cool and we get the ocean breeze. My property is only 10 minutes away from the ocean,” he said. “So, I asked my brothers to give me all the information in Taiwan about the soil type, the PH value and moisture and I keep trying and improving after five years and boom!”
Frank has watched his produce grow bigger and better than some of the farms back in his home country.
He does get some help from his farm hand, Lucy the chicken.
“[The chickens] poo under the tree so I don’t need to spray and apply all the chemical fertilizer. Everything is organic,” Frank said
Hundreds of people visit Green Lotus Organic Farm each year to get a taste of Taiwanese culture and a crash course in farming.
“That’s why most people come here to visit — it’s the only garden where you can see all this tropical fruit from their hometown, from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam,” Frank said. “They eat all this fruit and remember when they were in Taiwan and appreciate it and then they bring their kids here to learn how to grow these fruits and vegetables.”
It might be Frank’s technique that draws in visitors like one couple touring the farm in April.
“We tried but it wasn’t so successful so this year, we came back to ask them some more questions,” said Jan Sheen, visiting from Seattle.
It’s the taste of home, however, that brings them back.
“Every time we stop by here, you recall what you used to have, your life in Taiwan,” said Bob Sheen, visiting from Seattle.
Frank invites people to embrace his heritage and harvest for free.
“If I charge for a ticket, it’s nonsense because I want to spread Taiwanese culture for everybody to share with them,” he said. “[The farm] produces so many fruits and I can share with friends and neighbors, that’s my happiness. Their happiness will come to me like a mirror.”
If you would like to visit, you can make an appointment here.
While the visit is free, you can purchase fruits and vegetables from the farm once the peak of the harvest happens around June. Individual produce ranges from $2 to up to $30 a piece.