These days, eating organic is considered to be an expensive trend that is limited to the likes of those who can afford to fill their shopping carts with artfully stacked produce from the shelves of Whole Foods. What happened to the days when eating locally produced food was more economical since it didn’t have to be shipped half way around the world before reaching your table? Well, it seems those days are back.
A scenic 90-minute drive into the Chiang Mai countryside lies the quiet Mae Tha Valley, home to a group of five certified organic farms, known as the Mae Tha Cooperative. This group of farms have come together to create Chiang Mai’s first CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is to connect local farmers with local consumers by offering a weekly delivery of organic veggie boxes to the Chiang Mai area. The farms in the CSA have an open invitation for visitors who want to get an inside look.
On a recent visit to one of the farms, the genuine smile of a 30-year-old farmer named Ton was a welcome sight upon our arrival. This young electrician-turned farmer gladly lead us through his family’s 10 rai farm, stopping often to show off the mouth-watering fruits and lush patches of green vegetables. He eagerly explained their 6-month process for making natural fertiliser and the importance of crop rotation to ensure that the soil stays fertile and pest-free. Standing in the middle of this sanctuary of natural, raw greenness, it was hard not to feel healthy; however, Ton explained that the farm has a not-so-green past. He said, “Ten years ago, before we were organic, the farm used lots of chemicals to grow only corn and peanuts. It caused bad health for my family and fever, cough and allergies from the chemicals.” The farm was not making enough money to break even, so Ton was forced to work in a factory and sell electronics in the city to help support the struggling family.
Unhappy with his job, Ton set out to restore the success of his families’ farm and sought out advice from a local wise man who had ample knowledge of organic farming. Thus begun the process of converting the farm into the fully functioning organic vegetable machine it is today. Along with his mother and father, Ton is responsible for looking after over 100 different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. While the work can be tiring, the rewards are worth it. Ton’s mother, Ratnee, who is 51 years old, says, “I work every day, but I am happy because it’s my farm and if I’m tired I can rest. Before when the farm used chemicals, I couldn’t rest and we barely made enough to break even. ” The establishment of the CSA helps ensure a stable future for all of the families in the CSA. Ton says, “Our farm is now making enough money to support two families – both mine and my grandmothers’. And I enjoy this work much more. It means freedom.”
Jeff Rutherford, an American Independent consultant in Environmental Communications and a specialist in natural farming, was a key factor in initially getting the CSA off the ground. He highlights the importance of such a network, saying, “This puts pressure on the consumers instead of the farmers. If we keep buying chemically produced goods, they will keep making them. It’s a classic example of supply and demand.” The establishment of networks such as the CSA can help to slowly lessen the demand for chemically produced goods and increase the demand for organic goods.
Since its establishment in 2010, the CSA has developed a solid network of over 30 consumers in the Chiang Mai area. Each box is filled with a variety of seasonal fresh produce, giving you no excuse not to get your 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The veggie boxes are available for only 200 baht per week or 2000 baht for ten weeks. Not only can you now afford to buy fresh, locally-grown organic produce, but it will be delivered right to your doorstep. What more could you ask for?
Veggie boxes are available year round and can be delivered directly to your home every Wednesday.
To sign up or for more information please contact:
For Thai speakers – Ahn at 087 191 5595
For English speakers – Sarah at 081 885 4427 or firstname.lastname@example.org