เครือข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลือกภาคอีสาน

Green Market Profile: Somporn Tongnoi

Bringing the Land Back to Life

By Caitlin Goss (CIEE Khon Kaen)

It was only nine o’clock but Somporn Tongnoi and her fellow farmers had already been up for over six hours getting ready for the organic Green Market that is held every Saturday. Somporn, 44, is an organic farmer and one of the thirty or so farmers who sell their produce at the Green Market in the Yasothon province. Although the conventional market down the street vastly trumps the size of the two-year old Green Market, it is gradually gaining more vendors and a broader customer base.

Born and raised in the Kammaet village in the Yasothon Province, Somporn has been farming organically for nine years. She inherited her farm from her parents who had been chemically farming ever since she could remember. “At the time, they gave out chemical fertilizers so that farmers would get greater yields. I’m not sure where they came from, though, maybe the government,” she explained. Each season, her family would put two layers of chemicals on their rice, one before transplanting the crop and the other right before it was ripe. When asked about health problems caused by the chemicals she replied, “people in my family got sick a lot and had to go to the doctor very often.” Once she finally made the switch to organic, her family saw a decrease in their family’s health problems, one of several benefits that the Tongnoi family has seen from their switch to organic.

Growing up, Somporn’s father had attempted to save seeds after the harvest, but was forced to sell them in order to pay for the endless amounts of chemical fertilizer needed to sustain the farm. Consequently, the family fell into debt. Since Somporn has changed her farming methods, however, their debt has lessened by a significant amount. Initially, fellow villagers were skeptical of the family’s new technique, shocked that they would choose a practice that created a lower yield. The decreased yield, however, eventually caught up to previous levels and Somporn’s successfully sustainable farm began to catch they eyes of their neighbors. “ Now when I sell my produce in the village,” she explained with a chuckle, “the villagers hurry to buy it.”

Her organic farm produces a plethora of crops; two rais of land are designated to fruit such as coconut and tamarind and another large portion is set aside for rice. During the rainy season, Somporn’s favorite season, she works in the field all day. Her day starts at four when she cooks breakfast for the family. Afterwards she works in the field and takes care of the cows, buffalo, and pigs that help to fertilize the land with their manure. Around five in the evening she returns to her home, and if she has time, she works in her garden next to the house. “We grow everything we need, we are very food secure,” she boasted smilingly. “We don’t have to buy any food from the store.”

Somporn has not only found healthy and safe food from her organic farming methods, but has also found new friends as well as outlets for spreading the organic movement. “Before I stayed in the village and didn’t know many people, but now I get to travel to different provinces outside my village, and I have made many friends through the Green Market. It feels like a family,” she said. “When I don’t get to come to the market, I miss my friends here.” Her participation in the Green Market has allowed her to make connections with people in other villages and provinces who share the goal of spreading sustainable organic farming.

Apart from selling her produce at the Green Market, Somporn also holds the position of Vice President of the Green Market committee. Alongside seven other women and one man, her job entails checking on the produce at the market, planning the transportation to the market and to meetings across provinces, and organizing the sellers. “It is a hard job to organize everyone,” she said knowingly with a humble laugh. Looking at the gender demographic of the committee, Somporn notes that women are increasingly holding leadership roles. She works to spread information and knowledge of the benefits of organic farming to other provinces and to her own neighbors.  Her husband is also active in the organic movement. He currently works with the Alternative Agriculture Network (AAN) on seed saving and research on local varieties, positively contrasting her family’s past need to sell their seeds for chemical fertilizers.

Her two daughters will inherit the family’s organic farm. Her eldest daughter is a teacher and incorporates teaching on rice planting, compost, biojuice, and organic fertilizer which she learned from her family and from attending AAN training workshops her parents encouraged her and her sister to attend. “Education on agriculture is very important because we want our children to continue what we created,” she stated proud of her daughter’s efforts in building agricultural knowledge in the youth. “I don’t think being a government official is as important now as being a farmer. You have to do your own agriculture and grow your own things to feed your family.”

Somporn is very happy with her life on her farm. “Doing everything organically, we are creating life again in the fields. The animals have come back and the consumers have safe food to eat.” She hopes to expand her efforts in spreading the organic movement throughout her village and throughout Thailand. “I want everyone, every farmer to be organic.” Her continued work with the expansion of the Green Market will help move organic farming into the spotlight and, hopefully, create a greater awareness of the benefits of sustainable farming and the importance of respecting those who feed the world.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: