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11/05/2013

The Organic Farmers of Kudchum in the Thai Province of Yasothon, Austin Edy

From our readings and lectures from Unit 1 we have learned that Organic agriculture is a more sustainable way of farming when compared to using chemical fertilizers.   

DSC_1122The Green Market in downtown Yasothon opened on May 24th, 2008.  In downtown Yasothon the market takes place every Saturday in an old bus station from 5am-8am.  This market sells only organic foods and herbal medicines.  From our readings and lectures from Unit 1 we have learned that Organic agriculture is a more sustainable way of farming when compared to using chemical fertilizers.  During an interview with three of the Green Market organizers our CIEE student group learned a lot about this unique market in Thailand.  The rules to sell in the Green Market are as follows: the product must be organic meaning no chemical use during any stage of farming, a certification for the product from two separate groups who monitor the organic farming standard, and no MSG in the product.   The market has a select clientele base that is made up of retired Government officials as well as quite a bit of youth come to buy their goods from the market.  The Green Market (GM) organizers explained that the reason retired Government officials make up a large chunk of their clientele is because they now love to be healthy.  The retired officials also wish they could grow their own local vegetables but they are not able to considering they live in the city and have no access to a farm of their own.  The GM organizers also explained that in their market, the food is just as expensive if not cheaper then in a traditional market that can sell food grown via chemical fertilizers.  This is quite interesting considering in the United States organic food is much more expensive then traditionally grown food.  This then begs into question why the organic farmers would farm organically.  

I asked my father at my home-stay in the village of Kudchum, which is in Yasothon province, why his family began farming organically.  He switched to organic farming three years ago because of health problems in which he attributed to the chemicals he was using.   He also claimed he had debt due to asking for loans from the bank in order to pay for the chemicals.  He is now the manager of the organic rice mill in his village.  Him, his wife, his daughter, and granddaughter live quite sustainably.  In terms of organic vegetable and livestock they own chickens, cows, grow the vegetable morning glory, grow rice and sticky rice, as well as catch wild crabs and toads.  They cook all of this for themselves.  My home-stay mother would also sell chickens, toads, crabs, morning glory, rice, and sticky rice at the GM.  Over the four days I stayed with my host family I only ate one item that they bought, which was about a half pound of chicken meat.  Besides that every meal came from their own property tended to by their own hands.  My home-stay mother and father worked extremely hard.  My father would be out of the house by 7 am and come back by around 7 or 8 pm, and my mother went to work from 8 am to 6 pm at the rice mill sifting through large amounts of rice to find and remove the pieces of rice that had yet to have the chaff removed (the outer husks of the grain) all while taking care of her 1 year 11 month year old granddaughter throughout the day.  Not only did my home-stay mom have a day job but she also took care of the property and things around the house; she was a constant worker.  From my experiences in my home-stay and my visit to the GM I know have a better understanding of sustainable agriculture and living. 

*** CIEE DG fall 2013, Unit 1: Food and Agriculture ***

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