Starting a Food Forest on New Land

During our stay at Maejo Baandin in Chiangmai, we met a couple who have been staying there for a while. Po is from Bangkok and Shiran is from Israel. They are both musicians and met in India when they were there studying classical Indian music. They have a small white dog that they adopted from the streets.

They had recently bought a piece of land around Maejo village to – as Po puts it – retire on. Po was a music producer and had been in the music industry in Bangkok since he was a university student. He eventually became very jaded of the superficiality and commercial aspect of the industry that he moved to a remote island in Thailand. He has traveled around quite a bit and was even a forest monk for a year. Po might seem very old from my description but he is only in his early 30s. He laughs readily and his humour is eccentric. When offered an ice-cream by a young boy, he exclaimed: “No I can’t eat that, I’m a rockstar! Continue reading

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Mindful Farm – Cultivating Oneself

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A sanctuary to calm the monkey mind

I ended year 2014 and stepped into 2015 at a farm a few hours northwest of Chiang Mai city in Thailand. From the name Mindful Farm, you can probably guess that it focuses on mindfulness and meditation. The farm was started by a former monk Pi Nan (literally meaning ex-monk) and his Japanese wife Noriko about 2 years ago. They have a baby girl Nobara who is very calm compared to most city kids that grew up with the ipad. Continue reading

Project Spectra – Farming on a Rooftop

We were tasked to build a farm on the rooftop of Spectra Secondary School recently. It is a new secondary school in northern Singapore that focuses on vocational and practical skills so that students will be well-equipped to work upon graduation. The school’s philosophy behind this rooftop farm initiative is “No One Owes Us a Living – We Work Hard to Put Food on the Table”. As such, we will also be teaching the students how to farm organically. I have no doubt that it is out of this world for these city teenagers.

The barren rooftop when we first stepped onto it.

The barren rooftop when we first stepped onto it.

The good and also bad thing is that the infrastructure is already built. There are 11 big concrete planters filled with soil which means we can start growing soon. Unfortunately the soil has been left bare for a few months. In the tropics, this mistake was magnified by the baking sun and torrential rain. I learned from the school that the landscape contractor has scraped off the top layer of the soil because it was muddy. My guess is that the “mud” is actually the fertile top soil that got damaged by the elements. We are now left with the clay subsoil… Continue reading

Project Green Valley – Our Very Own!

Most of our time at Edible Gardens is spent building food gardens for other people. We design the gardens based on their aesthetics and we grow the plants that they like to eat. It’s still lots of fun but you feel different when it is your own garden. In this sense we are very lucky to have a small plot of land that we can do anything we want.

Polytunnel

Barren land when we first took over. Polytunnel overhead.

Ok, our land is not really ours since it is adopted from Green Valley Farms, a commercial organic farm that has set aside part of their farm for recreational farmers/gardeners to adopt plots to grow edible plants.

Like most of the other plots, ours is about 100 sqm (~1000 sq ft) measuring 20m by 5m. It is within a polytunnel which means the plot is covered completely by a plastic sheet or net overhead. In Singapore and Malaysia, it is very common practice for commercial vegetable farmers, organic or not, to grow in a polytunnel. The polytunnel gives the farmer control over the rain and sunshine. It is supposed to keep pests and birds away from the vegetables as well. Continue reading

Plastic Farming in Yunnan, China

Plastic sheet mulchI was traveling in Yunnan in April earlier this year. Yunnan is in Southwest China and borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. It is one of the most mountainous regions in China and boasts a large plant variety due to the varying climates.

While strolling along the roadside to a nearby mountain, I saw many small-time farmers working the field. The villagers in this region are typically of the Bai ethnic minority group, one of the many within Yunnan province. I was curious with the way they are farming and decided to venture into the terraced fields to speak to them. Somehow I ended up helping them farm. This amused them greatly and drew many stares. Continue reading