This article studies the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) in Taiwan. It begins with the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR), a US-funded agency championing plant breeding and land reform. Capitalizing on Japanese colonial legacy, a technocratic Chinese nationalism, and Cold War geopolitics, the JCRR boosted the productivity of rice while diversifying the agricultural economy through vegetable cultivation. The AVRDC, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the US government, was created in 1971 to bring this vision to Southeast Asia. The expulsion of Taiwan from the United Nations nonetheless threatened the center's survival. To carve out its sphere of influence, the AVRDC combined vegetable breeding programs with experiments on home gardening and small-scale agriculture, inserting itself into a bourgeoning sustainability discourse in the 1980s. The article argues that the center's ambiguous position within the international agricultural research network prompted it to adopt a “modest narrative” that celebrated not heroic figures but the collaborative endeavor of scientists sympathetic to farmers. However, the marginalization of agriculture and shifting identity politics in Taiwan made the center's achievement increasingly less relevant to its host country, thus complicating the significance of the AVRDC to the agricultural history of Taiwan.

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