Jimmy, PRU Chef on PLANT.

From the beginning, we set out to plant what we could. It’s impossible to understand the value of a carrot or a beet if you don’t plant it and watch it grow. Did you know it takes four months for a seed to turn into a carrot? The soil, the air, the water, the insects, the birds, the farmer – all of these elements work together to bring a single carrot to your plate. In four months, anything can happen. Too much rain. Not enough rain. Insects eat through everything. Sometimes the variables work together beautifully. Sometimes it’s a collision course that ends in catastrophe – the whole crop dies. You cannot fully understand this unless you plant the seed and see it through.

It’s easy to go to the market or call up the farmer down the road and buy perfect fruits and vegetables. And, we definitely do that. But, it’s important to me to stay close to the soil, to the air, to the plant. Because, that is how I remember and understand what it takes to bring food from soil to plate. Farming, like cooking, is all about innovating, trying new things, failing and succeeding.

We are very lucky to have Pru Jampa, our farm up the road, where we have an opportunity to put some of our ideas into practice. To experiment, make mistakes, learn and grow. But, we quickly realized that we need help. This is what led us to Phuket Farmers’ Club.

PRU Jampa Team on RAISE

We always wanted to create a place where we can encourage communities to learn and practice sustainability, to support artisan producers.

Permaculture is a way of raising plants that relies on practical solutions—it’s collaborative and efficient. Modern farming isolates problems, throwing a chemical or synthetic solution. Permaculture is the opposite. We farm naturally and in balance with nature. When things go wrong, it means something within the natural system is out of balance. So, we experiment, shift, adjust and try to find the right path that brings us back to balance.

Raising a plant basically means you need to get from seed to maturity with as little damage as possible. Phuket is a paradise. It’s green and tropical. Great for holidays on the beach, but not so good for farming! This tiny island has more microclimates than you can imagine. The salty sea air, the misty hillsides, the monsoon winds, the coming and going of tides – they all affect the soil. Phuket has good topsoil, but when there is too much salt or rain, all bets are off. To raise anything, you start with the soil.

Over the years, farmers here have adapted. They are able to grow what they need quite well. Now, people’s tastes are changing and a global community means having access to different cuisines and ingredients. People like variety and change, and as farmers, we have to adapt and learn to grow our community wants to eat. If you can manage to grow it or buy it locally and not from halfway across the world, well that’s even better.

Together we plant, we raise but mostly we are trying to understand the soil, to understand the kind of soil we have, the kind of soil we need to raise the things we want.

You know, permaculture is a big word that was coined in the last century. But, in Phuket, the indigenous farmers here have been applying “permaculture” all along. Local know-how is our springboard. Then we adapt, applying practical solutions to keep things in balance. It could be manipulating elephant dung, coconut husk and kitchen waste to get the right compost, or fermenting the compost to adjust to the alkalinity in the soil. If it sounds a bit like a mad scientist, it probably is!