A New Model for Democratizing Agriculture in Thailand
Thamturakit is revolutionizing the way food is grown and consumed all across the country — and we should all be paying attention
The Pun Pun Center for Self-Reliance, an organic farm and teaching center located in the North of Thailand, was founded sixteen years ago as a way to transition to a more sustainable, self-reliant model of living and growing food. Since then, it has bred a nationwide movement towards a new, democratized financial model for Thailand’s agriculture system.
It started as Jo Jandai and Peggy Reents, the farm’s co-founders, began to see the cracks in the industrial agricultural system in Thailand: “In the conventional model, consumers are paying a lot for food, and farmers are paid very little — in the end, the middlemen are the ones who are profiting,” explains Reents. “So we set out to create a model where the farmers had more control — where they became their own middlemen.”
The traditional agricultural model in Thailand, favored by large conglomerates, gives farmers huge quotas they must meet by the end of a season in order to be paid a set rate. “It’s all contract farming,” says Reents. “The farmer is responsible for all the expenses, so when you really budget it out, the farmer barely makes anything.”
The need — and the opportunity — to do something different became clear: consumers were growing more concerned about unsafe pesticide residues on conventional agricultural products, but organic produce was overpriced and hard to find. Farmers, in turn, were becoming more interested in moving away from monocrops and industrialized forms of agriculture towards self-sufficiency models, where they could grow diversified crops that they could support their families with while making profits from their surpluses.
“We’re almost like a black sheep in comparison to the rest of Thailand because we don’t do cash crops — we don’t invest a lot of money in farming, we try to think about self-reliance first,” explains Jandai. “The idea is that we have to grow enough for ourselves first — the leftovers, we can sell.”