My basic knowledge of vegetables is that, unless they’ve already been acclimated to it, they don’t like heat. Many tomatoes stop producing fruit at around 34C. With the average daily temperature more near 40C on a daily basis, we’re seeing less fruit production. Our cucumber vines have wilted and been cleared away. The corn stalks are all dried up and the cobs are drying to be used as seed next planting season. Even the cilantro that was planted only a month ago is nearing the end of its seeding cycle. Very few farmers will be doing anything over the next few months (besides burning their fields), and the reason for this is clear: nothing wants to grow in the heat.
It’s currently nearing the hotter time of summer in Thailand. In the surrounding areas of Maesot where the Charis Teaching Farm is located, this means burning season. A few farms are planting their cash crops of sugar cane, but most have recently harvested their soy or mung bean and will be burning their fields in preparation for rice season in two months time. For us, the heat presents a different option.
On our farm we look at the heat not so much as a deterrent, but as an invitation. New crops like eggplant are taking the place of dried up vines. Our once vibrant vegetable patch is ready to give way to our next planting of pioneer trees like pigeon pea. Our testing grounds for agroforestry, reclaimed tree-dense areas on our farm, are actually being tested and doing well. Having less plants to water also means more time left over for seed collection and storage (a current area of research and development for us).
This being my first hot season in Thailand, I have to say that I approached it with trepidation. However, given all the warnings of how hot it would be and all the difficult lessons that farming has taught me over the past year, the heat has just become another opportunity. It’s an opportunity for growth, for strengthening and for preparation. It presents us with opportunities to make tough decisions and then learn from them. Rather than be deterred by the heat, this season of death (because this is the time that many of the trees lose their leaves) is bringing about a renewed sense of life on our farm.