With my star sister from Canada and another from Holland we tuk-tuk it out of the town to the Living Land Farm, an organic project six years old. We are gratefully given a complimentary tour of the property by manager Laut Lee, a high-spirited Hmong Lao dedicated to the preservation of traditional farming techniques along with green modern living. He generously promenades us through the rice paddies showing us also the different conventional machinery for polishing the rice and grinding it into flour (thus used to make delicious coconut rice flour cookies he shares.)
Living Land is mostly committed to sticky rice agriculture, the staple of the Lao diet, but also plants rows and rows of lettuces, herbs, and other vegetables, even experimenting with some idiosyncratic to Laos items such as rosemary…doesn’t grow we learn although the multitude of Italian purple basils and curly parsleys seem to thrive. Tall tobacco and lemongrass plants mix in with the vegetation to be used as natural insecticides.
The farm is faithful in hiring local employees, giving back to the district schools, composting, love. It sells most of its products to restaurants in the town and is exploring ways to expand its markets. There is some difficulty in that organic produce has a shorter shelf life but the four boys in charge of the venture are working diligently to overcome such hindrances, and I am sure with the high level of ingenuity present they will have no problem.
Susan the water buffalo is resting in the midday heat from her post plowing the rice paddies, perhaps frolicking up the mountains covered with wild forests or happily whirling in the pond, one of her favorite activities. The remaining staff are resting as well as the sun is intense around noon; with tightly woven triangle shaped straw hats we are protected.
The tour concludes relaxing under a hut near the gorgeous pond surrounded by colorful flora and a lone avocado tree. Laut shares his experience as a university student learning English as well as his years working in restaurants, lending him perhaps to his passion for food development. We converse further about Lao life and the Hmong, he illuminating that his father is a shaman and one I can perhaps meet. My heart flutters with excitement.
Laut further talks about securing food and happiness for all and our need to live harmoniously with mother Earth. He also shares that sticky rice water makes excellent shampoo.
Aho brother! Indeed.
The Living Land Farm is a budding project open to the guidance of all, a community inspired venture. Cooking classes and yoga are possible and volunteers and/or donations always welcome. Check it out: http://livinglandlao.com/
I am ill still as is another one from Holland. Wiped out. Perhaps it is the MSG (which is often in a salt shaker next to the pepper.)
I will rest all afternoon although I would rather play.