Friday, October 2, 2015

Farm (backyard) to Table

From farm to table: a popular saying I had yet to fully experience before this morning.

For the past week, our group has been working at the Upland Holistic Development Program (UHDP). This organization provides local farmers many tools including organic seeds and alternative low energy farm practices! We have been learning the ropes about seed banking, agroforestry, germination, natural pesticides, home-made animal feed, and much more.

The morning started with splitting into two groups. My group was sent to the forest, with a UHDP leader, to collect bamboo trunks and 20 large banana leaves. The task was fun and filled with a lot of machete use, which is always a bonus. As we trotted back to the preparation area with huge banana leaves on our shoulders, we met up with the other half of our group. They were catching catfish with food we had made and dried 5 days prier.

Making catfish food balls
Their tasks were slightly bloodier and involved the circle of life a little more closely, but they still had a great time. As they started to prepare the catfish and cook it in the bamboo wood, we stripped palm trees and added the hearts of palm to a soup. We all joined back up to assemble some steamed wrapped pork*. We diced shallots, lemon grass, garlic, and more into the pork mixture. Then we took a scoopful of the raw mixture, wrapped it in banana leaves and tied it off with a bamboo string. Sticky rice (a different type of grain form traditional rice) was also cooked in bamboo wood on the fire.

Wrapping the pork!
Candid pork wrapping shot
The meal was wonderful and shared among everyone who had prepared it, including our Thinking Beyond Boarders group, the UHDP staff, and the ECHO** staff. We all agreed that eating a meal that we had taken a part in growing, harvesting, and preparing was a pretty rare and amazing experience.

Tomorrow we leave for a village in the mountains for one day and then off to Don Jiiong, a village about 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, for our homestays for 3 weeks!

*Warning: the pork was bought at the market this morning and not slaughtered on site. In past years they have slaughtered the pig and used its meat, but our small group would not be able to use the entire pig and therefore would be wasteful. The pig was raised on a farm close to here in northern Thailand but it is true that we do not know the conditions in which it was raised.

** ECHO is a seed bank center and partner organization to UHDP

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