Once upon a time, many animals lived on a farm. A cow boasted that she is big and can produce milk for people.
Portip Pechporee, operator of the Organic Way City Farm.
The cow asked an earthworm: "What can you do, as a little pink tube?"
"I'm small but I can plough the soil and help plants grow," the worm answered. "I use my long stretchy body to make tiny tunnels in the soil. And that gives channels for air and water to pass through more easily."
That's a scene from The Earthworm Miracle, a tale displayed along with hand puppets that draws the attention of kindergarten kids who come to be educated about life on the land at the Organic Way City Farm.
"Tales and puppets are natural and fun tools of play that kids engage in readily," said Portip Pechporee, the city farm's operator, who was formerly an assistant to the principal of a private school. "We want to open their eyes to the wonders of nature before letting them have a good look at animals and plants on the farm."
Occupying about 1 rai on Rat Burana 30, the city farm is a treasure trove of biodiversity amid Bangkok city. And a healthy dose of rural life unfolds when visitors explore: fish swim in a lively pond and rabbits are kept in a natural setting, while beetles, bees, birds, insects and earthworms nurture the ecosystem. Fruit and vegetable crops, trees, flowers, shrubs and healthy soil complete the vivid picture of a farm.
"It's a place where urban dwellers can sample a slice of rural life without leaving the city," said Portip.
Here, visitors can also savour cultural scenes when they learn how to mill rice using traditional energy-saving or modern electrical mills. The most striking features of the city farm are big Thai-style food carriers, or pinto, where food leftovers are stored to make natural fertiliser.
"We explain to children where food comes from and how small things like using water and electricity carefully can contribute towards conserving nature. It's something that we need to instil in them when they are young," she said.
Portip told Life the location of the city farm, which is next to her organic health cafe, once served as a bus depot. For many years, neighbours expressed their concerns about noise and pollution created by the depot. After the depot lease was terminated two years ago, she decided to rent the land and start her city farm project.
The crumbling space once covered with a cloud of dust was turned into a visible farm support from the Thai Health Promotion Foundation. Compact yet diversified, this community garden is today able to produce a wide variety of organic veggies and fruit. This safe and nutritious produce is mixed into a vegetable box collection scheme for people. Some of it is used as ingredients for dishes at Portip's cafe and a healthy ready-to-eat delivery service.
"We supply fresh, healthy food to the community. We don't use unsafe chemical fertilisers and pesticides for growing," said Portip.
Education is one of the key elements of the farm. In addition to the children's education programme, the city farm also offers workshops to promote a healthy and safe environment in the community as well as sustainable living. By attending the programmes, participants learn bio-intensive farming methods, growing crops in limited spaces in environmentally sustainable ways, as well as a variety of growing techniques and tips. These programmes have attracted a lot of interest from the public. Others join the classes as they plan to live simply and sustainably in the city after their retirement.
"Empty shelves at supermarkets during the floods in 2011 have made people aware of food security. Even though they had money in their pocket, there was no food that they could buy," Portip said. "And in being aware of food security, we help create a sustainable, naturally grown food system for people.
"We also help them learn to have a self-sufficient lifestyle using minimal resources and land."
Portip said enjoying home-grown produce from their garden helps people stay healthy.
"We have lovely produce in our garden so we are not able to resist it. Freshly harvested veggies are more delicious than those long-stored ones at the market. A bite into it straight from our backyard is also of higher nutritious value," she explained.
"On top of that, my produce is the tastiest as it has an added pinch of pride. "I grow seeds and nurture them and that gives a sense of accomplishment," Portip said with a smile.
This green creative community also attracts hordes of volunteers who often gather in order to enjoy the projects and fun activities.
Watcharin Sukkasamesup, an amateur story-teller and puppeteer, got involved in the city farm's activities as she wants to promote the benefits of eating vegetables among children.
"When I was young I was forced to eat vegetables but I wasn't told what's good about it," said the housewife. "Well, eating vegetables helps promote bowel movements and keeps us healthy. I think they are important messages that we need to communicate to children."
Pimpon Kaewla, a kindergarten teacher who hosted a field trip to the city farm, said: "The city farm is a unique outdoor classroom that offers a safe and fun environment for little children.
"Here, kids can learn real-life experience. We bring them in touch with the soil and observe plants, flowers and animals in their natural environment. We point out and name trees, insects and animals to them."
Wanpen Meenut, a mother who accompanied her daughter to the city farm, said: "Visiting the farm helps my little girl get close to nature. And that can help her to develop a love for nature from the time she is still young. When she grows up, she will care for nature and the environment."
Portip said: "It's pleasurable to see children come to our green community and learn how to plant. They run around, laugh, and help us harvest veggies. People come for a growing education. Families maybe bring a guitar, or painting materials, and relax at the farm.
"Our green space serves people from all walks of life.
"And making communities and families grow strong, healthy and hopeful is the icing on the cake."
The city farm's service also includes a community allotment for people who don't have their own space but want to grow crops and pick up fresh produce from the farm. But Portip insists on giving the service to those who value sustainable growing practices and care for the environment.
"Some people offer us money and ask us to plant seeds and harvest produce for them. And they want to occupy our space for their children to play after school. Many of them want to grow crops because their friends and others do it. They don't serve our purposes," said Portip.
"Our main aim is to encourage people to practise sustainable agriculture and living towards self-sufficiency. Our job is to give them know-how and support. And they have to grow the plants and learn it themselves."
Portip noted that people nowadays have concerns about where ingredients come from. Now, she said it's time for people to be aware of sustainable issues.
"Growing food at our own garden is the most reliable way to guarantee that we will have food on our plates, particularly during times of food scarcity," Portip said. "You know, people have high potential. We can be great at doing things. But we sometimes never learn or try to do them. To me, to have a sustainable future is to learn to practise self-reliance by relying on ourselves."
About the author
- Writer: Sukhumaporn Laiyok