While in Chiang Mai, I took a visit to Fair Earth Farm, just north of the city. This is a 1-acre farm, and uses a blend of agroforestry and traditional farming practices. Their goal is to create a self-sustaining model for other local farmers to learn from and implement on their own farms. What with our own desires to pursue agroforestry on our farm, it just made sense to go take a look.
The farm has three crop fields surrounded by wide walkways and deep canals. Our farm already has the wider walkways which both farms utilize for crop production. Fair Earth however, has more varied species. They also have a larger number of alley crops, like cassava, papaya, mulberry, banana and a legume I’m unfamiliar with.
The canals are a new idea to me. They serve multiple functions for their farm. 1) Fish farming for food. 2) Fish manure: they drain the separate canals intermittently and collect the manure to fertilize their crops. 3) Increased and closer water supply. This approach just makes sense and I hope to implement this into our farms self-sustaining test farm soon.
Fair Earth Farm uses heavy mulching on their alley crops. The benefits of this are well-documented. Mulching holds in moisture in the soil and provides a ready supply of nutrients to crops as fungi, bacteria and insects help to break down the mulch over time. The mulch comes almost exclusively from their trees, which emphasizes the importance of having trees on the farm.
They also raise ducks, chickens and pigs. These animals bring in a ready supply of manure that is harvested and composted before being placed on vegetable beds or turned into fertilizer. The eggs and meat production obviously provide a great food source as well.
Finally, the farm has a guesthouse onsite. They have two luxurious rooms for guests to stay in. Included in the price is farm-to-table meals and on-hands agricultural lessons. After a day of helping to tend to the farm, you get to eat the fruit of your labor, and everything is organic. Children are welcome as well. With chickens to chase around the farm, a variety of fruits to pick and plenty of mud to play in, they’ll have a great time that they won’t soon forget.
I don’t think we’ll be heading in the guesthouse direction, but maybe a Charis restaurant someday. Visiting Fair Earth Farm offered inspiration to our vision of what the Charis Teaching Farm could be. If you’re ever in Chiang Mai and looking for something different to do, a change of pace from the tourist scene, I highly recommend staying at Fair Earth. You won’t be disappointed.