Today, ISDSI took us to an organic Farm (the Mae Ta Community). It’s about an hour away from ISDSI. We learned about organic agriculture and the switch that about 10% of the Mae Ta Community has made to organic agriculture from using chemicals and pesticides. It was really interesting, and we got to help weed a patch of garlic.
It took the farmers who we visited over ten years (half the time they had been farming organically) to pay back the banks for the loans they had taken out when they were farming with pesticides and chemicals. From my understanding of what we learned today, the chemicals and the seeds themselves cost a lot of money and the farmers don’t usually make enough to cover the costs. The famers end up in a cycle of debt. Another concern for the Mae Ta Community farmers is the seeds. The seeds they buy from seed companies can only be used once and they need to re-purchase new seeds every year.
The Mae Ta Community (or at 10% of it) switched to organic farming for a lot of different reasons. The farmers we visited it did it not only because of the debt cycle they were in, but for health reason. They were getting sick from the chemicals. They have now been making ends meet for 20 years and hope to continue. I think it is also important to note that this family has been farmers for generations. They are not young hip twenty-year olds out of college and don’t come from the same background that a lot of people I have met from the United States who are interested in organic agriculture. They are just regular Thai people. I think they are really different from who I picture when people talk about organic farming or sustainable agriculture.
My Thai Family
I have been in Thailand, and have lived with this family, and have been blogging for three weeks now. I haven’t mentioned it before but having a “Dad” is kind of weird. I come from a very un-traditional family to say the least but to cut it short, my mother raised my twin sister and I single handedly (with some help probably from my older siblings sometimes, especially my older sister). Moving on, so having a host “dad” is kind of weird. This isn’t my first time living with a host family (I spent a year in Taiwan with Rotary International), but I still think it’s a little strange. Just to clarify, it isn’t a bad thing; both my host parents are really nice and helpful. My host dad gets up super early (like before 6am) to make me breakfast every morning! I just wanted to put those feelings out there.
The Dinner Table
I think it’s really interesting the similarities and differences between eating dinner here with my Thai family and eating dinner at home with my mom and my twin sister (or even my older sister and brother in-law). Here in Thailand we eat on a mat on the floor in the living room, but the TV is on and people half-watch that, half-converse with one-another. At home in the US, we eat in the living room, on the couch with the TV on doing the exact same thing. The food here is a lot sweeter than I thought. Chinese food is a lot saltier and I miss it.
I also have one confession. I have been acting a little stubborn in my Thai class. I do not like the way my Ajan teaches Thai because he doesn’t tell us the definition of the word in English so sometimes you think you know a word but you don’t. So I have been really frustrated and grumpy in class and not even trying to keep positive. I know I am being childish but I am an Aries and come from a stubborn line of family so I need to work on this. I had a much better attitude today though and the effect was I had a really great time at the farm. Although Thai is not coming easily to me, I will say I am trying to use it. I try really hard to have conversations with my host family or to use any Thai I know when talking to an Ajan or a Thai person who speaks some English. After hearing some of the students who were here last semester speak Thai and being able to understand about 60-70% of what one of the better students was said to someone during dinner the other night I think I am progressing well. My Chinese however is another story. I find myself forgetting a lot of it not having used it in a month or so.