Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Earlier this year our friends, Jeff and Sarah Rutherford with Fair Earth Farm (http://www.fairearthfarm.com/) helped organize a small group of young certified organic farmers with the Mae Tha Cooperative (http://www.thailand-travelonline.com/thailand-destinations/northern-thailand-information/sustainable-agriculture-happiness-of-living/620/) in establishing the first community supported agriculture initiative in northern Thailand (and one of few in the whole country). Currently 26 families, most of whom are affiliated with the Chiang Mai International School (http://www.cmis.ac.th/), are subscribing to the CSA.

Every Wednesday morning, the young Mae Tha farmers bring large foam boxes full of fresh, seasonal organic vegetables; all for 200 baht (less than $7.00 US). This is a bargain for quality produce. And, in fact, the amount of veggies provided is more than our family can consume alone in one week. Much of the bounty is shared with neighbors.

One interesting dimension of belonging to a Thai CSA initiative is that some of the vegetables, such as cha-om (ชะอม or Acacia pennata), are very Thai. Therefore, the means of preparing these veggies in a Western fashion is not always apparent or possible. Ellen's kitchen skills are impressive and she has discovered new ways to prepare local types of eggplant, vegetable amaranth, daikon radish and sweet potato. Additionally, the Rutherfords have formed an on-line forum so that the CSA members can discuss the identity of less known produce and compare recipes. However, Ellen doesn't consider herself a master Thai food chef. Fortunately, Bua Loi, our helper of 16 years, is a great cook who knows exactly what to do with such produce.

Some of the ECHO's development projects in the region are concerned with ways to help farmers better market vegetables. For those located near urban areas where there are likely to be persons willing to pay a bit more for safe produce, CSAs might offer an alternative marketing approach.

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