‘What do you really need in life?’ This question kept spinning around my mind after visiting the inspiring Pun Pun Farm near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Since I am a true fan of organic gardening myself, I had been looking forward meeting the group of people who live, eat, work and teach together at this organic farm. But what I experienced at the farm took me way beyond the point of just maintaining an organic garden.
First of all, the farm attracts a really interesting crowd of people who all seem to have their own inspiring reason to be there with one thing in common: the desire to live a sustainable life. The relatively small community at Pun Pun actively share their knowledge with the world by hosting hands-on educational events. Their farm, community and programs are based on an experimental and experiential learning approach. I soon found out that this is a great way to show the world how you can live a self reliant life.
Meet Kritsada, who has lived right next to the community for 9 years. I arranged to meet him at one of the earth houses within the community where he would arrive with his beautiful daughter by bicycle. The interesting conversation that followed gave me great insight in the way his life changed after moving to the farm.
What made you decide to move to Pun Pun farm?
I used to run a guesthouse in Chiang Mai until I was forced to move out by the landlord who had bigger, more lucrative plans for the area where my guesthouse was based. This initially was very bad news but later I would realize that it actually was the perfect eye opener about the world I was living in at that time. It was at that same time when I got to know Jon, the founder of Pun Pun farm, who invited me to stay over. Then I soon decided to buy my own piece of land next to the farm.
What activities are you involved with at the farm?
At first I was planning to run a guesthouse near the farm but the area wasn’t getting enough visitors at that time to make it successful. So I decided to offer Thai vegetarian cooking courses. I have been doing that for 4 years but during that time we were still building the community buildings so I used to help the people with building a lot. Within the community we do a lot of things together so I got to help others and learnt a lot about building earth houses and organic farming. I am now facilitating these activities as an instructor and still do random work at the farm.
How did you meet your wife?
Sheena used to be a teacher in an international school and she brought her students here to teach them about organic farming and earth house building. We had good chance to get to know each other during the first 5 years that she was visiting the farm. Three years ago we decided to be together and two years ago we started to have a family when our daughter was born.
How did moving from the city to this place change your life?
It made me feel a lot more relaxed. I started to realize that my consumption had nothing to do with what I really needed. For example, I used to buy new clothes almost every week but now that I moved to the farm, I barely buy clothes because I learned I don’t really need them. It’s as simple as that.
Is there stuff that you miss from the time you still lived in the city?
Since I have been living here for a long time I don’t really miss stuff anymore. The people that visit us bring a lot of new knowledge and inspiration. I still go to the city sometimes although the entertainment that is on offer there is mostly also available through the internet.
What people would you like to invite to come to Pun Pun Farm?
Any kind of people are welcome but they should not be afraid to get their hands dirty. If they are not willing to participate that is fine but then at least they need an open mind to understand our ideas. But again, anyone is welcome and can decide for themself.
What can volunteers expect at Pun Pun Farm?
They can experience how it is to live a self reliant life. We are teaching how to live that life with minimal resources. However it literally being a hands-on experience, it will make you realize what you really need in life.
What makes you most happy regarding to the volunteers?
People who are keen to learn our stuff, get inspired and use our knowledge in the place where they want to settle down. Mostly people who come here are between 20 and 50 years old which means they can use the knowledge gained here for the largest part of their life. About 3 out of 10 visitors successfully created their own sustainable living place using the techniques learnt at the farm.
What is your future ambition?
I question that myself sometimes and right now I can’t give a concrete answer. I am living a very happy life at this moment and plan it day by day. Travelers who visit us sometimes make me dream about going and traveling myself some day but listening to their stories is almost as good as going there myself.
What’s your message you would like to share with the world?
Take your time to realize what is really necessary for your life and try to regulate short term emotions or feelings fed by big egos in this world. A lot of time people think they need stuff but they will only realize they actually don’t if they take the the time to think it over.
Where will the farm be in 10 years?
We would be happy if the size is still as it is now. The community is big enough and actually there is not enough land to conveniently expand the farm as well. But it would be great to further expand our network the upcoming years so the concept of this farm can be used elsewhere in the world.
About Pun Pun Organic Farm
Pun Pun farm is located around 50 km north of Chiang Mai (see location in Google Maps). They frequently organize educational events which usually get booked up quite far ahead. You can always pay a visit during the day and visit the welcoming gift- and coffeeshop where they also serve highly recommendable fruitshakes. More information on www.punpunthailand.org
I met Andy Bustin on the farm, professional photographer and travel writer who offered to take some photos of me and the bicycle (see below). See his blog www.one-wayyy.tumblr.com for more stunning photos of Pun Pun Farm.