Mindful Farmers plants the seeds for a better future for their community
Mindful Farmers is not the typical raise-money-for-a-good-cause kind of effort, but rather a contribution to the community that aims to create a more sustainable and peaceful environment and future. The organic farm, about 75 kilometres northwest of Chiang Mai, is run by former monk Pi Nan and his partner Noriko, who met while studying meditation at a temple in the eastern part of Thailand. After the birth of their daughter, they settled in Pi Nan’s hometown and started hosting volunteers at their organic farm. “We thought that not only two of us, but [also] many other people were searching for a place to enjoy meditative lifestyle with likeminded people outside temples,” Noriko explains.
Living in what amounts to a big family, volunteers help grow more than 50 different kinds of vegetables and fruits, ranging from local veggies to medicinal plants, berries, and figs. “We believe that promoting organic farming and a vegan diet is the only way to preserve Mother Earth,” Noriko says. Since organic farming requires more effort and time compared to conventional farming, help on the farm is always welcome. But the farm doesn’t only produce organic goods. In exchange for their work, volunteers also get the chance to learn about natural building methods, such as mud brick building, as well as vegetarian cooking. Both Pi Nan and Noriko enjoy the art of cuisine, and their kitchen often ends up a fusion of local-style food made with greens from the garden, green smoothies, Thai sweets, and healthy Japanese food. Plus, volunteers often add their own seasoning to the mix, cooking dishes from their homes, like pizza, gnocchi, Chinese rice dumplings, and Indian curries.
While some of the farm’s products used to be sold in Bangkok, the couple is looking into the possibility of selling it at local markets to help promote healthy diets among the local population. “So much processed food from the city is brought into the village, and apparently health problems have increased,” says Noriko, adding that she hopes Mindful Farmers can help reverse this trend. So far, the couple has already launched a vegan restaurant in the village, where they offer free vegan food on Buddhist days and special holidays.
Another major reason why so many volunteers—more than 70 a month during high season—choose to join Mindful Farmers is to slow down, forgetting the torrid pace of city life, even if only for a little while. As the farm’s name suggests, mindfulness reigns supreme here. “We achieve inner peace by working day-by-day with mindfulness,” says Noriko. And so meditation plays a central part in daily life on the farm, which boasts its own family temple, too. Pi Nan and Noriko also regularly invite teachers from across the country to give lectures to volunteers and locals, because, as Noriko explains, “We would like to help people in the village free [themselves] from suffering and enjoy inner peace.”
By opening up the farm to volunteers, the couple has created a vibrant community where locals and travellers from around the world can meet, exchange ideas, and empower one another. Through communal activities, such as temple festivals, weddings, harvesting peanuts on neighbour farms, and teaching English to the village children, the volunteers have already influenced far more than these two homesteaders. They have touched the whole community. As Noriko puts it, “Our farm is a door to the world for the people in the village.”