On November 21, 2017, Gan Tawan Farm had a chance to welcome the visitor from Innovitro. With an hour and a half drive from Bangkok to Lopburi, the farm is located in the middle of nowhere on an unimaginably land plot that could not foresee to grow any plants. We had the chance to talk with Sukanya, the land owner, and later came to the light of how she turned this dusty land into the green field.
Sukanya was a geologist, spending most of her time doing her career in the field of geological practice in an Oil and Gas company. After her retirement, she and her sister decided to buy this land plot, split it in half, and began her after-retirement career as a farmer. In her life, she loves planting, but never once see her self as farmer in profession. Everything that she thought she knew it all, proves that she had to start from scratch when it comes into real-life.
Innovitro: Please tell us how did you start this place?
Sukanya: When I bought this place, the land is full of dry-soil, only the grass can grow. It was very dry. No water. There were just 2 small ponds. The land was not suitable to grow plant. I need to develop the land, I started by buying fertilized soil and plough them. I think I can do it. I wish to turn this to be a learning center for everyone.
It took me 2 years to seed the plant in the nursery before I can grow them on the ground.At first I start with the plant that I think can grown on dry soil, such as Dates. This plant needs time to grow. While waiting, I grow something that can bear fruit, such as banana and lime. I also plan to grow the cash crop, such as corn.
Water resource is the most vital. I followed the King Rama IK's Theory of New Agriculture of the Sufficiency Economy Regime on the allocation of land space. The 30-30-30-10 rule is applied, that is 30% of land for cash crop, 30% for mixed plants, 30% of water resource, and 10% for the living quarter. I organized the land in such manner. I bought additional land plot to gain more water resources. I built the water irrigation system. I powered them with solar energy.
What I had done here cannot be say to conform to "Organic" type. This is because the fertilizer that I used. I intended to used animal manure. However, the manure alone is not enough. I have to mixed with some chemical fertilizer. I did it once a year in
small amount that is not harmful for consumption.
Innovitro: How the community support you or how do you support community?
Sukanya: The local plantation of this area is Topeka. When I came her and tried to plant something else, not Topeka, they thought I was crazy. The problem was from the slope of the hilly land. It cannot hold water. So I took the advise from the late king Rama IX to use Sunhemp (a kind of ground covering plant) to grow on the slope. It help absorb water into soil and refertilizes to enrich the soil. I used tractor to adjust the land scape to turn the hilly slope into step.
Innovitro: Are you satisfied with the development of the farm?
Sukanya: I am quite satisfy, but I still think there are plenty of things to do. I need to proceed cautiously. I wish to experiment things. I go to many courses that the government, together with university, to share the knowledge and practice to farmers. I have learned so many things. Unfortunately, not all the farmers have this chance to access to these information and knowledge.
When I first planted the Dates, I got the seed from the middle-east. It was the best quality Dates. Without knowledge I planted them without knowing how the pollination works. At the end I only have the fruit of the low quality and low quantity. I have learned later from these courses that pollination is very important to know when you try to breed the best fruit. I had already wasted time and money from not knowing.
Innovitro: How do you plan to share what you've learn to the community?
Sukanya: I have a Facebook website. I shared my stories to the friends. Now, many friends of mine bought some pieces of land from me so we can grow some plants together. Now I'm growing a special kind of corn. It's called "Siamese Ruby Queen" corn. I got the seed from the class that I went to. I had grown some and it turn out to be very good. Now I'm expanding. It will be a cash crop for me. I am also experimenting some new theory. I will grow strawberries in this hot weather. Strawberry need to be in cold weather during the nursery time. Once it get older, it can be planted in any weather.
Innovitro: How are you doing financially from being a farmer?
Sukanya: My products are sold out almost all the time. I have this monthly market that allow me to sell and the customers always pre-order. The main selling things are banana and lime. I also mad sun-dried banana. It sold out too. I make money just enough to cover my medical. I hope when the Siames Ruby Queen corn is out, I would make profit out of it.